Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Incredible Beauty -- and a Lot of Work

This morning, I heard Anne-Sophie Mutter play Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. I don't know where Mendelssohn's passion left off and hers began, but the performance was stunning. I went to YouTube in the hope of finding a clip. The one I heard this morning is there, I think, but it isn't embeddable. I did find an earlier performance, which I would like to share. I'm embedding only the second movement, because that is the one that breaks my heart.

Just a few minutes ago, I went to Premium T's beautiful blog and saw the photos she had posted there - pictures of late roses. I'm not sure whether it was the photos themselves or the way they recalled the Mendelssohn, but something about them brought tears to my eyes. Do check them out. They are moments of startling beauty.

In between these sacred places, there was a lot of work. I am trying to organize my work space in preparation for NaNoWriMo (It is is 32 days away, you know.) so I set about screwing the hardware into the back of my dry-erase board, attaching it to my office wall, cutting out photos of my characters and gluing them to index cards (pink for girls, blue for boys), and tacking them to the wall in the form of a family tree (with friends and hangers-on around the edges). I've used masking tape to make the lines on the family tree. That will make a convenient surface for little notes about marriage dates, etc.

And just when I need some serious help, Alexandra Sokoloff has kindly started a series of posts offering advice on preparing for NaNoWriMo. I plan to follow her advice religiously -- so I bought a new toy - a brand-new plastic-covered clipboard with a pocket. The clipboard is Purple for Prose.

All in all, a satisfying day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


A hydro crew is working on my street, so I have no power. I've come to the library to browse quickly (We can only have 30 minutes. I may have to go to Starbucks.) I'm not sure how long the power will be out. All I know for sure is that a lot of men are digging a hole in my back yard. A nice gentleman in a hard hat promised that they would fill the hole in, afterward.

I do want to thank everybody who commented on yesterday's poem. I felt strangely at home, channeling Ted Hughes. That can't be good.

Today has been hectic. I had to go to the dentist, but first I had to go to work, and then I had to go to the optometrist. That last stop was NOT on the schedule. The right ear piece of my glasses just up and fell off. The piece (arm?) fell down and got lost in my car. It turned out to be inside the casing for the seat belt. I had to use needle-nosed pliers to get it out. Then I found out that it wasn't just a matter of putting a new screw in. "No," said the man behind the counter. "We can't fix it. It has to be replaced. See?" He pointed. "That part goes inside the arm, and it's broken." He took my glasses into the back room and left me to stew. Those frames cost me $350. That was more than a year ago. I didn't buy a warranty, but I suspect it would have run out by now, in any event.

A few minutes later, the man reappeared, holding my glasses. Both arms were attached. "I fixed it," said the man.

"How much do I owe you?"

"Twenty dollars." Phew. After my fantasies of having to spend $350, $20 sounded just fine. Not only that, but I could see to get the money out of my wallet. That was a bonus.

Then I went to the dentist (routine) and drove home to see whether the hydro had been turned on. No. Hey - I hadn't had lunch. I had planned to cook a veggie burger and soup. Off I went again, this time to try out Sukkho Thai, the new restaurant that opened downtown recently. Any excuse for Thai food.

The strangest thing happened when I went to order my food. Omigod, I thought. It's all in English. I don't know what to order. I knew I liked Larb Gai, and that was what I had planned to try - but the menu was full of things like chicken with vegetables and red curry sauce with Jasmine rice. Oy. I ordered a chicken dish with Thai basil (I like any kind of basil) and hoped for the best. The meal turned out to be delicious, though I have no idea how authentically Thai it was. I mentioned my problem to the waiter as I was leaving. He told me they do serve Larb, but only in the evening. Now I have an excuse to go back for dinner. Maybe the power still won't be turned on at supper time, and I can have a Two Thai day. Heh.

Meanwhile, my time is running out. Bye for now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Poem, after Hughes

We rule here,

stomping conquerors

with hubris,

and receiving fealty,

the blood
of the defiant

and the slow,

And yet

when we've gone,
when our heavy weight

no longer presses
on the earth,

When the pennies
on our eyes

have crumbled,

there will be

terrible beauty,

Earth rampant
on a field of sky.

Thank you to TFE for the assignment. Click here for TFE's blog, where you will find links to more Monday poems.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kim Goldberg at The Vault

...and me without my camera. I hope that Kim will post some photos at Facebook, so that I can snag one to show you. The place was packed. Some folks had to stand. That was very cool -- not their having to stand, but the fact that the event was so well attended. I had taken Kim's hint and arrived early, so I sat in a comfy wicker chair and listened first to Theo's Trio, then to Kim. Before the entertainment started, I chatted with a couple of people in front of me. One of them said that the building we were sitting in was designed by Francis Rattenbury, the same man who designed the Provincial Parliament Buildings in Victoria. I didn't know that, but I wasn't surprised. According to The Vault's website, the building was erected in 1912 for the Merchant's Bank. It is very solid, indeed, and quite beautiful.

I had forgotten what an animated speaker/reader Kim is. Her reading brings her poems to life. Now, when I read them, I can picture her talking, moving around, swooping her arms to illustrate a point.

After the reading, I asked Kim whether I might reproduce one of her poems here. Most of them are slated for publication in magazines, so she can't let them loose on the internet, but this little one is unpromised. It is called squat(postscript).


by Kim Goldberg

spew of powdered stars
mouthful of locks with no
keys, boundless
herds of rocks--hobbled, slurping
dustbowls, grazing hardened
thought, wasted
as three-legged atoms, as frozen oceans, crashed

as wave, vacant
with stampede, with gone, with
done for

RED ZONE. Copyright 2009, Kim Goldberg
Nanaimo, Pig Squash Press
ISBN 978-0-9783223-7-3

I saw some of the same people I've encountered at WordStorm, and some others, too. I know that several members of the audience were from out of town. Kim sold lots of books, and Theo's Trio sold their CDs - though I didn't buy one of those. Until I get a sound system that's more sophisticated than the pair of ear buds I'm using right now, I'm not buying any more music. I did very much enjoy the trio's performance, though. Among other things, they did a Leonard Cohen song, winning me over on the spot.

I hardly had time to digest the afternoon's events before it was time to go out again, this time to dinner at the Fox & Hounds. We just got home. Why is it that days off always seem so much busier, so much more full, than work days?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Notes at the end of a long day: Head full of popcorn -

It has indeed been a long day, and my mind is feeling rather like a popcorn machine (complete with melted butter-like substance), but soon it will be time to take my book and head off to bed. I'm looking forward to that.

This is where I'll be spending tomorrow afternoon. Kim Goldberg is launching her new book, RED ZONE, at The Vault, a downtown coffee house I've been wanting to visit. Cool. Two birds. One stone. There will be a reading, book sales,and music. I heard Kim read some of her poems at the library a couple of months ago, and I look forward to this chance to see what she's been doing since. (Oh, and if anybody has a spare room to lend me, for storing all these books I'm acquiring, I'd be grateful.)

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in my Ralph Lauren striped pajamas (I got them at Winners, which is sort of the Canadian equivalent of Ross, I think -- for super-cheap, and they're very comfortable), listening to Grieg on the CBC classical stream, wondering whether I should take a stab at that meme that Kathryn got from Angie. I could swear I'd already done that meme, but I can't find it. Hey, I just answered at least two of the question (#3 and #7, and maybe #19) so I guess I'm doing it. In for a penny, then - I'll just tackle a few questions, the ones that I found particularly intriguing (not that I found the "What are you wearing?" question intriguing. Really. That would be kinky. I just happen to be wearing something with a fancy label on it, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to drop a name. ;>)

#1 - What's my current obsession? My NaNoWriMo Wnot-yet-IP. Actually, it is IP, in the sense that I'm thinking about it. I bought a dry-erase board and drew a family tree for my MC, with dates of birth, marriages, death as appropriate. I've scribbled notes everywhere -- suggestions for plot points, questions about my characters' motivations, reminders to check one date or another. Every time I open a notebook, I see something like "What attracted Bridget to Tony in the first place? He really is a bit of a scumbag, you know. Why didn't she see that?" My characters are nattering constantly now. I'll be glad to start writing about them. Maybe they'll quiet down then. (Did I hear somebody say "Fat chance"?) I want to rent a loft -- or a warehouse -- with white walls and lots of light, so that I can write all over the walls. Recently, I saw an ad for a new paint that you can use to turn any surface into a dry-erase board. Yes, Yes, Yes. That's what I need. A warehouse, a team of painters, and 40 gallons of dry-erase paint. Oh, and markers. Lots of markers.

#5 - What would I like to learn to do? I would like to learn to play the violin. I would like to play the violin like Isaac Stern. (By the way, in case you decide to watch this video - It starts slowly, but it's worth the wait.)

#10-What am I afraid of? Oy. Where do I begin? Failure.

#11 - What's my favourite guilty pleasure? Gorgonzola.

#17 - What super-power would I like to possess? Healing.

#21 - What was the last thing...that made me laugh really hard? I read today's Faster Than Kudzu post. Joshilyn Jackson makes me laugh so hard, I cry.

#23 - Describe my personal style. Disorganized.

That's it. I won't attempt to do the entire meme, in part because there's a little voice in my head telling me I've already done it (See #23). Maybe I just thought about it. That happens a lot (See #23).

If you've read this far, your brain is probably feeling like a popcorn machine, too. I do apologize for that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - My Favourite Place to Walk

You know where that is, don't you? It's on the Parkway Walkway. It must be my favourite, because I just keep going back there, although there is no shortage of places to walk in and near Nanaimo. This post is a nostalgic look back at this season's scenery.

First of all, I love the seasonal display of flowers on the walkway - and the fact that I don't have to look after them. Like Topsy, they just grow.

I took this first photo on May 18 of this year.

By June 3, the scenery had changed. It was brilliant.

And by August 4, the landscape had begun to dry out.

Nonetheless, the pathway still had its attractions, both visual

and culinary.

I know that the time is coming when the walkway will be wet and chilly and perhaps even icy (though I sincerely hope to be walking somewhere else, if and when that happens). But I also know that when Spring comes around again, the beauty of the walkway will be there to enjoy again, and I'm very glad of that.

Thanks to Cindy for this week's assignment. For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, just click on the big camera on my sidebar.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Parenthetical Remark

***My Theme Wednesday Thursday post is the one under this one. Blogger paid no attention to my request for delayed posting.

I just had a thought - (!) I looked at the comments to my mini-post from yesterday. Barry came in to say hello. Kathryn came in and commiserated with me about being behind on my reading. Then she noticed Barry's comment and said "I see him over there in the comments - going to go see his place right now and catch up!"

It occurred to me that we bloggers live in a sort of cyber-town - or cyber-village. Our neighbourhood consists of a higgledy-piggledy collection of houses

- old ones, mostly, with a scattering of new places - but all with lots of character. We spend a lot of time hanging out in our back gardens - mowing the lawns, weeding, hanging laundry on the line,

talking to the squirrels - and waiting to see who else turns up. When a neighbour appears on the other side of the fence, we wave. "How you doin'?" "Just fine, thanks. How are you?" - and our place in the social fabric is confirmed. If one of us is having a rough time, the others keep an eye on him or her. We care about each other.

It's a lovely neighbourhood, isn't it?

Theme Thursday - Wild!

Ooh. Such an intriguing assignment.

I was never wild. Goody Two-Shoes, that's me. When I was a child, my favourite activity was reading. When I played with the other kids, we played school, and I was always the teacher. I was hopeless. I wanted to learn about King Arthur, sing like Jeanette MacDonald, and save the world (in my spare time).

When the whole world went wild around me, I tried to join in, really I did. Starting when I was eighteen (I was a late bloomer) I tried to be part of the great anti-establishment unwashed. I became a hippie. I remember somebody saying to me that I had whiter teeth than any hippie he had ever seen.

I went through the motions. I listened to the Stones and the Kinks, the Animals - even Jefferson Airplane and - wildest of the wild - Big Brother and the Holding Company. I must say I identified much more with Gracie Slick than with Janis Joplin. I sounded more like her, too. But I sounded even more like Joan Baez or Judy Collins, and I was much more comfortable with their repertoire. All the songs of the era exhorted me to cut loose, but I was earnest to a fault. I still am. It's a real handicap for somebody who's trying to walk on the wild side.

By the way, I watched the video just now. It had been a long time. Nope. Definitely not me. Not even close.

Then there was "Born to be Wild". I always knew that wasn't true. Catchy tune, though.

There is one Wild song that must have felt just right to me. I loved it. It still makes me smile a secret (or not-so-secret, I guess) smile. It's "Wild Thing".

If I had it all to do again, maybe I wouldn't try so hard to break out of the box and join the Wild Ones. On the other hand, if I had it all to do again, I would be young again, and I'm not so old that I don't remember how that felt, how small the box seemed, how big the world.

And on the other other hand, I'm getting old. If I can't be wild now, when can I? Watch out. Maybe I was born to be wild, after all.

If you want to hear more - and from some really wild people - click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Going up, going down

Today has been a roller coaster. I didn't have to get up before 5 a.m, which was great. I read Barry's disturbing news, but then I read his charming and heartwarming encore. I took a walk in the sunshine. I had to do my grocery shopping after that, so I ended up with sore legs and feet. The day started out so cool that I turned a heater on and sat with a shawl over my legs - but by the afternoon, I was seeking out shade.

In between chores, I have started to get caught up on my blog reading, but I have a long way to go, so if I haven't been around to see you, please forgive me. I will keep on keeping on.

Meanwhile, though, I need to do a little writing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday, Monday - and other poems

TFE posted some songs that I was supposed to use as inspiration for a poem - and truly, that was my intention. But then things happened.

First of all, Leonard Cohen fainted during his concert in Valencia. That's a major shock to my aging Canadian heart. He can't be doing that sort of thing. But - it seems he had food poisoning, and he's okay now. Phew.

I found out about the 'okay now' part this morning, when I listened to Tom Allen's show, Radio 2 Morning, on the CBC. I also found out that today is Leonard's 75th birthday. Woo-hoo! Party time!

I celebrated by snagging one of the wee carrot cake samples that Starbucks was giving out this morning. I think Leonard celebrated by going to Barcelona for his next concert.

All of this is by way of hinting that the songs I chose were Leonard's "Dance Me to the End of Love" and "Anthem". I considered "Hallelujah", my perennial favourite, but Anthem's words were calling me - "Forget your perfect offering. Ring the bell that still can ring....There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

The Songs -

The Poem -


On this last day of summer,
the hourglass tips
and tumbles into fall
while I bask in the music
of a burning violin,
the fire of Chagall made sound.

While I think about what might be lost,
and mourn the fire that used to be,
a harsh voice smolders still,
denies the advancing cold,
declares a deathless war on death,
claims for its own the last embers.

I regret so many things about my life,
but I regret regret most of all.

The Wish

I wish us all a happy Fall Equinox. May we treasure all our days.

Click here to read all the Monday Poems that TFE has inspired (well, mandated, really, but that's just his way. We love him anyway.) ;>)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Building Character

When I was in the public library a few days ago, I took a look at their shelf-full of books about writing. One that caught my eye was The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, by Noah Lukeman (New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002). I brought the book home, and I've been reading it in snatches, between things. I liked the idea of a book about plotting, because I've got a head full of people, but I'm not at all sure what the hell they're doing there. I helped one of them (Marie) start a blog, in the hope that she would reveal her intentions. So far, she's revealed a bit about her character; she has also told some stories about her childhood and about her father, another of the people in my head. Lukeman's book is giving me some great ideas for ways to get to know Marie - and my other characters - better. This is how his second chapter begins:

"A company can only ask a potential employee so much - if they probe into his sexual preferences or religious beliefs, they could get sued. If they probe deeper, into his superstitions or compulsions, they might be considered crazy. The public has made it clear that anything beyond a person's surface information must be kept private.

Paradoxically, when the public picks up a book, this is precisely the information they demand to know.

A writer, unlike a company, has no limitations..."

Lukeman advises putting yourself in the position of potential employer, doctor, teacher, banker, matchmaker, policeman, priest - and looking at your character from all those points of view (and more). He advises looking for inconsistencies in your character's character that make him/her interesting - for instance, your character might be an abuser who sees herself as righteous and sees her victims as deserving of the abuse. Or she might be a beautiful woman who is obsessed with her (mostly imaginary) physical flaws.

I'm thinking seriously of taking some of those online psychological tests everybody talks about, but in character. Do they send the men in the white suits out if you exhibit radically contradictory personality characteristics, use different names, change sexes and ages and backgrounds? Do you remember when I saw that wonderful one-woman play a few months ago, in which the sole actress played - what was it - 24? different parts? I'm beginning to feel as if I have a whole cast in my head, just waiting for a chance to get up on stage and talk.

I'm not sure, but I think this may be a good thing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The day's big news is that Kathryn Magendie is home from the hospital and in the care of Good Man Roger. Best wishes to our Kat for a quick recovery. Now we can all pop over to Tender Graces and tell her to get some rest, 'cause she never gets tired of hearing that.

Meanwhile, I just got home, and I have to get up at 5 a.m., so I think I'll start letting my eyes drift closed every few minutes, to convince them that it's bedtime. I am getting v-e-r-y sleepy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Domesticated

Or not. I went out this morning to take my super-duper knock-it-out-of-the-park photo, the one I'd been looking forward to. I drove over to the Parkway walkway and walked up to the farm where the alpacas live. What better than a photo of alpacas? How domesticated can you get?

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men and me. No alpacas to be seen, anywhere. Okay. I would just take photos of some of the rabbits that live nearby, the ones who used to be domesticated (or whose not-too-remote ancestors used to be domesticated) but who now live in a semi-wild state along the walkway. Semi-wild is like semi-domesticated, right?

No rabbits. Not one. The place is positively teeming with them, but they were all hiding in their burrows, snickering and shushing one another and saying "Don't make a sound, Flopsy!" and snickering some more.

Fine. If that's the way they're going to be. I had a look in my camera to see whether I had any suitable photos already, but the only animal on the chip was this one.

Definitely not domesticated.

I packed the camera along for the day, figuring that somewhere along the line, surely, I would come across a domesticated animal. And in the middle of the afternoon, I did. I met Annie.

Isn't she pretty? Annie is eleven years old, and she lives somewhere in the north end of Nanaimo - or so I assume, as that's where I met her. She was enjoying a personal stop outside the mall. Her man told me that he and his wife adopted Annie four years ago. When she first arrived, apparently she said something like "All your furnitures are belong to me!" and wouldn't listen to reason, but now, after a great deal of retraining, she is quite domesticated, and her people have their furniture back. Annie is a Border Collie/Shepherd cross, so she has a lot of intelligence going for her. When I told her people that I wanted to photograph Annie for my blog, they asked how they could find the photo online, so I gave them my card. I hope they find their way to The Turtle. They - and Annie, of course, made my day. As such, I'll end with a song in Annie's honour.

For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, just click on the big camera on my sidebar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

drive-by posting

I just got back from WordStorm, the poetry gathering that I discovered last - June, was it? - just in time for their season to end. I knew the new season would be starting right about now, so I went online and saw that the first meeting was scheduled for 6:30 this evening, readings to start at 7:00. I rushed in from work, took a shower and put on my Respectable Member of the Literary Community clothes (including pinchy shoes). I headed downtown to Acme Foods, in whose basement the meetings are (were) held. I couldn't get a parking space right near the restaurant, so I parked a couple of blocks away and walked down. I marched confidently through the restaurant and down the stairs. It was disturbingly quiet down there, probably because the place was empty.

I went back upstairs and accosted the sushi chef, who conferred with the maitre d', who checked the book and confirmed that WordStorm was not scheduled to be using the basement this evening. Nor, I discovered, was it listed for next week.

Disappointed, I walked back to the car, prepared to just go home and mope. Then it occurred to me that the library was still open. I drove there, instead, and used their internet service to check the WordStorm site.

You know that old adage, "When all else fails, read the instructions"? Uh-huh. I looked at the WordStorm page. Sure enough, the meeting was tonight. At 6:30. Racing through my life, as usual, I had left the site at that point, probably to go tweet something. This time, I read a little farther down the page, to where the BIG LETTERS announced the NEW VENUE, which was only a couple of blocks away. The new venue is the theatre where I went to see Agnes of God, and where I attended a storytelling event not long ago. So - I drove there, arrived just in time for the readings to start, and had a lovely evening. I did miss the green tea with toasted rice that I ordered at Acme, but I suppose I'll get used to that loss.

Seven people read their work during the open mic session; then there were readings by several invited guests.

Next month, I will, I will, I will get up and read a poem. Why is this so hard?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Theme Thursday - Over the Hill

As I will be away from home all day tomorrow, I guess I had better join the ranks of the early birds this week. I'm sure it's Thursday somewhere!

This week's theme was suggested by - me. (bowing) For more Theme Thursday posts, click here.

I have a story to tell you. It's a story about my sister Gracie - the one I went to visit in Wyoming a couple of months ago.

The story takes place many, many years ago. I flew to Wyoming on that occasion. I arrived on a Monday afternoon. My sister Pam was there, as well. We were all together to celebrate Gracie's fortieth birthday. Back then, we were all so young that we thought forty constituted "over the hill". Little did we know that at forty, we were just starting the climb.

Gracie and Pam picked me up at the airport and took me home to Gracie's house. When we got there, we saw that somebody had propped a 4x8 piece of plywood in the front yard. On the plywood were written the words

"Happy 40th, Gracie!"

in huge letters.

Gracie was not amused. She knew who had posted the sign. It was Barry. Barry lived three doors down. He was a realtor at a time when Wyoming was experiencing a real estate boom, so he suffered from an excess of self-confidence. He had played practical jokes on Gracie before. It wasn't that she didn't like him. He was actually a friend, and his wife, Judy, was a very good friend. What Gracie didn't like was having the fact of her precipitous descent into old age broadcast for the amusement of the whole neighbourhood.

Pam and I pulled my luggage out of the trunk and followed Gracie into the house. She went straight to the telephone and dialed Barry's number. She got his answering machine. She left a short message. "Thank you so much, Barry. I just want to remind you that I don't get mad; I get even." Then she hung up.

Over the next 24 hours, Gracie might be in the middle of cooking breakfast or chatting, and suddenly she would stop and smile; then she would go on about her business. Finally, when she had thought it through, she told us about her plan to get even with Barry.

It seems Gracie was not the only one having a birthday that week. Thursday, she told us, was Barry's 35th birthday. According to Judy, he would be taking part in a realtors' conference at the Ramada. Everybody who was anybody in the rarefied world of Wyoming real estate would be there. With Judy's help, we were going to crash the party.

On Thursday morning, Gracie disappeared into her room, and when she came out, she was wearing a blonde wig reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. Her face was heavily made up, and high on one cheekbone was a beauty mark that she had applied with black eye liner. She wore a tight, sleeveless metallic dress, fishnet stockings, and those transparent plastic high-heeled evening shoes that were all the rage. She had shoved a throw pillow up inside her dress so that she looked to be about six months pregnant. She was smiling broadly.

We hurried out to the car so that Gracie could get inside without showing herself to the neighbours. Then we drove three doors down and picked up Judy. Together, the four of us drove to the Ramada and found the conference room where the gods were gathered for their mutual admiration luncheon.

From her carryall, Judy pulled a cupcake and a candle. It was one of those candles that won't go out, no matter how hard you blow on them. She struck a match, lit the candle, and opened the door. Gracie walked into the conference room. Judy and Pam and I poked our heads inside just enough to see what was going on. We (particularly the Judy part of we) didn't want to be caught taking part in this caper.

Have I mentioned that Gracie sings? Of course I have. She had a country & western band at one time, and she had performed in public many times. She knew just what to do. She walked slowly across the room, which had gone strangely silent. As she approached him, Barry realized that this apparition was heading his way, and he started sinking into his chair. His torso got shorter and shorter. His head nearly disappeared under the table. He moaned "No, oh please. No." Gracie had no mercy. She sidled up to him, set the cupcake down in front of him, and began to sing. And this is what she sang:

When she had finished singing, Gracie kissed Barry on the cheek (no mean feat, as he had almost entirely disappeared under the table by then) and walked out of the room. We opened the door for her, and she made a slinkily impressive exit. Then we ran for it. We found out later that it wasn't until she started singing that Barry knew who the intruder was. He just knew he was in big trouble.

That evening, Barry called. "Please, Gracie," he said. "I will mow your lawn in the summertime. I will shovel the snow from your driveway in the winter. I'll do anything you like. But please - never do that to me again."

Over the hill? Gracie? Not likely! She was peaking. Come to think of it, I think she still is.

Cupcake clipart courtesy of Designed to a T

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Something Completely Different -

Some days, I can't do anything right. The world is a heavy place; it seems to lie on my shoulders like a yoke, bending my spine so all I can see is the ground beneath my feet.

Then there are days like today, when the only things on my shoulders are the bluebirds that perch lightly there, singing praises to the day. I had, in short, a wonderful day.

I had to go back to Parksville, this time to have my facial fur removed. I went to see Janice, the same lady who did my pedicure last month. She pampered me, as always. I am now a thing of beauty.

There was another lady working at the same time. That was Molly, who started work at the salon only recently. She was performing some miracle on the woman in the next room. Janice said that when we were finished, I should wait a moment, and Molly would come in and work on me, too. Sure. I had no idea what to expect, but Janice has never steered me wrong, so I lay back on the cushy table. Soon, Molly came into the room and proceeded to massage my face, ears, neck, shoulders, and even such of my back as she could reach, given that I was lying on my back. Then she went to work on the top of my head. All I could do was produce the odd moan of pleasure.

All too soon, Molly finished my mini-massage and I had to get off the table. That was the low point of my day.

When I told Janice how much I had enjoyed the massage, she suggested that I book a facial with Molly. Apparently the massage is a standard part of Molly's facials. Now I have to find a way to fit yet another indulgence into my schedule - and pay for it. Maybe I can schedule my haircuts a little farther apart to allow for the expense. Janice says I'm turning into a princess. ;>)

Then - (yes, there's more!) - I went on up the road to Qualicum, where I spent an hour in My Girlfriend's Closet. When I got back to town, I had tea with Jane.

Later in the day, I had a doctor's appointment, and even sitting around in the doctor's office couldn't dampen my spirits. I had my book to read - and there was nothing else I had to do. I could just sit there and read.

We should be able to bottle days like this and just sprinkle a bit of them on those other days, don't you think?

Clip art copyrighted by Bobbie Peachey,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rhapsody in Blue

I thought I was doing so well. I set my alarm for 18:55 so that I would be on time for the five-minute poem, and when I heard the alarm, I went to TFE's blog to make sure there wasn't a theme I was supposed to follow. Oh. I was supposed to take my time, listen to some music, write a poem, and post it at 19:00. Oh.

"Oh, what the hell," I said inelegantly. (It had been a long day). I threw a frozen dinner into the microwave, gathered computer, pencil, paper, and my dinner, retired to a quiet room, and when I had finished eating, I listened to Gershwin play Rhapsody in Blue. The following is how it made me feel, the way it always makes me feel. I've embedded the music at the end of the poem.

Moving onstage, you twirl and trip
and right yourself with arms like wings,
cast a shy smile toward the invisible crowd,
Sigh love me, love me -
take one long, deep breath,
face the footlights, bow.
The pianist watches carefully,
stretches, moves long fingers, plays
your graceless clown confusion into dance.
Your eyes meet his and his fingers move
across the stage with you,
gentling you, whispering, teasing.

The orchestra, impatient, rushes forward,
pulling you, pulling him faster, faster,
clarinet and trombone
crying joy, wailing fear and raucous power
and youth,
the foreverness of life,
And your defiant dance responds in arabesque
and leap and sinuous line
I live - I live -
Someone blew on the dust of ages
and there I was, and here I am,
this ridiculous notion, a dancing clown
and yet I live, and yet you love me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Twitter is Such a Nag!

Just home from work, I was reading Twitter, catching up on the day's gossip news, when I came across this tweet by Virginia deBolt:

A commitment to a blog is a good way to conquer the fear of the blank page. Small doses add up.

I had been thinking about the fact that I was tired and disgruntled and I didn't feel the least bit like writing a blog entry. It was as if Virginia in particular, or all of Twitterdom, were reading my mind. Now, I simply can't accept the idea that Virginia (of First 50 Words) would have anything but my best interest in mind. Twitterdom as a whole - well, who knows? But Virginia is on my side. I know that.

So I sighed the sigh of the put-upon, and I brought myself over to The Turtle, bringing a little something from Twitter along for the ride. Have you seen Roger Federer's winning shot in his match vs Novak Djokovic? It's the coolest thing. He hits the ball backwards between his legs. You know, that borders on arrogance! You can watch it here.

I think I know why I'm feeling unsettled. The next couple of weeks will be full of change:

On Thursday, I'll be attending the first WordStorm gathering of the season. I'm not quite ready to join the ranks of the lightning readers, but I hope that I can begin - eventually - to feel at home in the venue. I'll also be asking the regulars about the possibility of joining a local writers' group. It feels, in the anticipation, a little like the first day of school - redolent of fresh clean paper and sharp pencils, uncracked books and the ever-present threat of schoolyard bullies. I am eight years old, my hair is stringy, and I have blisters on my feet from my new saddle shoes.

As if that weren't traumatic enough, nine days from now is the Fall Equinox. I'm starting to mourn Summer already, even while the sun shines warmly and the berries are still ripening along my path. Note to self: Carpe diem.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome aboard!

I would like to extend a warm welcome to my friend Angel May, who has decided to join us here in the Land of Blog. Her blog is called Angel May's Growing Pains, and you can find it right here. I encourage you to go over and say hello. Angel May writes beautifully, and she has a great eye for photography.

Now I would like to thank Barb of Finding My Voice for the beautiful new award that graces my sidebar. It's the Kreativ Blogger Award. I put off responding until I got home, but now I have homework to do.

Rules for receiving this award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it in your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreative Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Okay - 1-3 are taken care of. Now for #4.

Seven interesting things about myself. Hmmm.:

1. I was born at home after seven minutes of labour. My mother was very efficient.
2. I cost $7. That was the cost of a house call. The doctor missed my birth, but he did come to the house.
3. I knit socks. At least I did, before I started spending all my time at the computer.
4. I sing. I've sung in choirs all my life (mostly Baroque), and a few years ago I had a little vocal trio going, here in Nanaimo. We sang WWII era songs - Andrews Sisters stuff.
5. Despite my Canadian status, I have never watched a hockey game.
6. I can't sew to save my life. When I took Home Ec, I sewed the apron I was making to the skirt I was wearing. With a sewing machine.
7. I am an incurable Chick Flick addict.


Now, for the fun part. I hereby pass this award on to the following bloggers, each of whom inspires, amuses, and/or educates me:

1. Virginia DeBolt of First 50 Words
2. Katrina Stonoff of Stone Soup
3. T. Clear of Premium T
4. Joshilyn Jackson of Faster than Kudzu
5. Kathryn Magendie of Tender Graces
6. Hazel Smith of The Clever Pup
7. Totalfeckineejit of Totalfeckineejit (heh)

That was fun.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tempus - fugit.

No Friday Shootout photo today, I'm afraid. There were bushes to be pruned, clothes to be (re)washed, groceries to be bought, and somehow all things bloggy got pushed to the end of the line. I do have very tidy-looking shrubs now, and the dryer is stacked with folded clothes. Tomorrow, I'll sort through them to see what still fits, what I should donate to Value Village, and what looks like a cleaning rag-to-be.

A side benefit to all the pruning I did today is that I have a huge bouquet of hydrangeas hanging upside down from a hook. When they finish drying, they will grace various vases, brightening the dreariness of winter.

I'm determined to take some time tonight and tomorrow to make a little more progress through The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I've hardly had time to read at all, and I look forward to seeing more of McCuller's turns of phrase. She delighted me by saying that somebody's broken leg was encased in a "plaster parish" cast. I can hardly believe that she wrote this book at the age of 23.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theme Thursday - Rhythm

Thank you to C.M. Jackson for suggesting this week's theme. For more takes on the subject, click here.

Surely the first thing an infant is aware of is the beating of her mother's heart. Any mother will hold her baby close to her body in order to comfort her. Watch a toddler move to the rhythm of music. Perhaps her enjoyment of music is related to that early source of comfort, her mother's

Throughout our lives, we continue to seek pleasure and comfort in rhythm. When we are nervous, we tap our fingers on any convenient surface. When we see a musical or dramatic performance that pleases and excites us, we clap our hands rhythmically, often in concert with many other people. We dance, keeping time to the music with our entire body.

I've found a few music videos on the theme of rhythm. I hope you enjoy listening to them - even dancing to them. To begin with, listen to the rhythm of the falling rain...

How many of us will post Gershwin's I've Got Rhythm? I hesitated to do so, on the grounds that everybody would surely use it, but then it occurred to me that we might all think that way, and then we wouldn't get to hear the very best song about rhythm ever. So here goes.

Maybe I spoke too soon, though. I forgot about Fascinating Rhythm, which may actually be the best.

There are just too many possibilities. Rhythm is everywhere - in music, and in the sounds of everyday life.

My last offering is one of my favourite songs. It combines those two elements, the rhythm of everyday life and music. It is Paul Simon's song, Everybody Loves the Sound of a Train in the Distance.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Tales of an Intrepid Explorer

William James Booksellers are located in downtown Port Townsend. They sell used and collectible books. I cannot come to PT without paying a visit to the shop. Today, we strolled in at about 11 o'clock in the morning. I wanted a book. Note: a book. My hosts bought seven books. I bought four. The odd thing was, we had been talking about books over breakfast, and when we got to the store, we kept seeing the books we had talked about. It was as if our browsing were a continuation of our breakfast conversation. I know. It was a bookstore.Of course we were seeing books. But who would expect to find a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces? That's fairly obscure, and I wasn't looking for it. It just appeared. I didn't buy it, though. As I walked up and down the aisles, my hands kept reaching out, of their own accord, and snatching books from the shelves. As I walked, I would look down and see that I had picked up yet another book. Where did I get that, and why? Where did it belong? I would have to retrace my steps and put the stowaway back where it came from. It was only by virtue of stony self-discipline that I escaped with only four books. I did buy a Strunk & White to replace mine that's gone missing, a copy of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz, and Yann Martel's The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. I was grinning as I walked out the door. Ah. A successful hunt - but oh, the ones that got away!

Our treasures in hand, we headed to one of the local coffee shops, and on the way there, we came across the Women in Black. I didn't know about this group until today. I wonder whether we have a chapter in Nanaimo. They were very impressive. This is their website. Their mission statement begins "We stand in silence because words alone cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring." I was touched by their commitment and courage.

We drove around for a little longer, enjoying the dramatic sky and the seascape, then headed home to have a look at the books we had bought.

One of the books that followed Rita home was Richard Lederer's Bride of Anguished English. When we got home, she started to read it aloud, but she kept collapsing in a heap of giggles. Next we knew, her husband and I were laughing helplessly, and all three of us were wiping tears from our faces. If you haven't read Lederer's books, I highly recommend that you do. Buy the books, and save them for a day when you need to laugh. They are strong medicine.

Later, there was dinner at La Fiesta Jalisco Restaurant in Port Hadlock. I had chicken with mole. It came with rice and beans and salad. Afterward, I rolled out to the car, far too full to walk. (Okay, I exaggerate - but only a little).

Our friend from Texas arrived in town today, and tomorrow we will all be going to the Thai restaurant for lunch. This is a great mini-holiday. I promise to visit all my bloggy friends when I get home to Nanaimo, but there's just so much to do here!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Notes from a Near but Far Place

I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck! I am writing from the office of my friends in Port Townsend, Washington. We went to the local hardware store today and bought an extra cable, so that I could plug into their computer network (they don't have wireless set up).

I caught the 10:30 bus from Nanaimo yesterday morning. Because I like to sit in the front-most right-hand seat - the seat with the view, I arrived at the bus station a full hour before the bus was scheduled to leave. When it pulled into its appointed spot, I walked right up and stood beside the door. Another woman came up behind me. The driver got out of the bus.

"The bus doesn't leave until 10:30."
"I know. I want to make sure to get the front seat."
"Well, you can't. It's reserved. I like to keep that seat empty."

I thought he was kidding, but when we finally boarded, there were various objects placed on all the front seats, and the right-hand seat had a Reserved sign on it. For some reason, the driver felt he needed his own seat and four passenger seats. I was ever so slightly annoyed. There was nothing I could do about it, so I set about making up a story to explain the driver's action. A long time ago, I said to myself, he was assaulted by a passenger who was seated right behind him. Ever since then, he has felt very nervous about having passengers sit too close to him. Once I had the back story in place, I could sympathize with the driver, rather than complain.

When we got to Duncan (about the halfway point), the rain came. It was a heavy enough downpour that I regretted having left my umbrella at home. We drove up over the Malahat Pass, and as we got to the top, suddenly the rain disappeared and the sun came out. Consequently, I had a lovely stopover in Victoria.

I went to Sam's Deli for lunch. I think Sam's was the first place that I ever ate in Victoria, and I loved it right away. They build fabulous sandwiches. Yesterday, I had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on multi-grain bread, with oodles of fixin's. On the side, I had a ramekin of clam chowder. Delicious, all of it. As I ate my lunch, I glanced across Government Street, and there he was. Darth Vader. Playing the violin.

When I had finished eating, I walked over to listen - because you never know - it might have been Joshua Bell under that hood. But no. I put a little money in his violin case anyway, because he had made me smile. Then I walked around the Inner Harbour to where the Coho was docked. I passed a group of blond young men who spoke a language I didn't recognize - Polish, maybe? It seemed to have lots of Ms in it. As I passed the piper who performs at the corner, he was just setting up. I didn't linger, because I was afraid I would forget to leave, and I did have a boat to catch. As I walked on, he started playing Scotland the Brave.

Robin and I had talked about my ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula. He was worried that the crossing might be a little rough - and it doesn't take much for my stomach to consider it "a little rough" - but as it turned out, the only rough bit was about 2/3 of the way across, where the water always gets a little confused. I had a very pleasant crossing. For most of the trip, I read my book, though I did make a note at the beginning of the trip, when a very new baby was making a lot of noise and things didn't look promising:

The baby's strangled cry sounds like cats mating. My seatmates and I, codgers all, grimace and exchange long-suffering looks. It occurs to me that we've sat here for nearly half an hour, and we haven't left the dock yet. Four minutes to departure, then an hour and a half's voyage. Perhaps the sea's motion will calm the fretful child.

Apparently I was right. The baby calmed down soon after I wrote my note, and I was able to read in peace.

Later, an older woman (considerably older than I, even) sat down across from me. We chatted a bit about inconsequential matters during the voyage, but as we neared Port Angeles, she suddenly started telling me some pretty intimate details of her early life. She told me about being sexually abused by her father and running away from home, some more stories about her coming of age. It occurred to me that this stranger felt free to talk to me because the chances of our ever meeting again were very slim. I gave her a little of my own history in exchange, and we parted ways as the ferry docked.

There's something special about traveling alone. It can be a lonely experience, and if problems arise, it can be scary, but it has its moments.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Photo Shootout - Doors and Windows

As I suspected, today turned out to be a rush. I remembered - just before 5 p.m. - that I needed to get out-of-province medical insurance before I leave for Washington, and I didn't dare leave that task to tomorrow, lest I forget and find myself uninsured for five days. (I think Murphy was an optimist, so I don't set foot across the border without insurance).

Insurance in hand, I went to the bus station and bought my ticket, so that I don't have to stand in line tomorrow. I'm leaning toward catching the 10:30 a.m. bus after all. I'll just go to the station very early and get into line, book* and knitting at hand.

As for the shootout, I made an executive decision. I photographed only doorways and windows that I have walked (or looked) through. Nanaimo is not known for its spectacular architecture - we depend on nature for local splendour - so I am presenting, instead, places that have fond associations for me.

First of all, there's the ferry. As an islander, I generally rely on the ferry for transportation to the mainland. This is a photo of the recently renovated terminal at Departure Bay. The Departure Bay ferry sails to Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver.

Next, I visited the offices of Shaw Cable, who provide me with both cable television service and, more importantly, internet service. Their facade is very high-tech and glossy.

When I left Shaw Cable, I drove right by one of my favourite doorways. This is the Bailey Theatre, our community theatre.

I hadn't intended to photograph the Bailey, but this caught my eye as I was going by. Cool. The new theatre season is about to start.

The last doorway I will show you is one that I'm afraid I use more often than any other.
There you go. The doors and windows of Nanaimo. This assignment was suggested by Kerri. For more Friday Photo Shootout posts, go here - or click on the camera in my sidebar.

*The book I'll be carrying is How to Read a Poem...and Start a Poetry Circle, by Molly Peacock. I'm loving it. As a matter of fact, I'm going to blog about it - but not tonight.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Interesting times -

Tonight, I'm fighting a severe case of sleepiness. That's unfortunate, because even before the sun went down, when I should have been out walking - and photographing doors and windows for tomorrow's Friday Photo Shootout - I was here. Right here. In my chair. Reading posts. Reading comments. Yawning. The yawning had nothing to do with what I was reading. I'm just kinda toast.

So it will be another of those Friday Photo Shootouts, the last-minute dash across town, the furious clicking of the camera, the impatient uploading of photos to The Turtle. I think I must thrive on stress. I certainly "organize" my life in such a way as to produce it.

Years ago, a university professor of my acquaintance said "Students who say they work best under stress have never tried it any other way." I have tried, from time to time, to take her words to heart, but my efforts at organization are short-lived. I am just about ready to declare this state of dishevelment in which I live to be the essence of me.

Of course, given all of the above, I have arranged to visit friends on the Olympic Peninsula this weekend. On Saturday, I will catch a bus here in Nanaimo, which will leave me in Victoria in time to catch the Coho (ferry) to Port Angeles, whence my friends will pick me up. We will go to their home in Port Townsend, and I will stay there until Wednesday, when they will drop me off at the ferry and I will sail back to Victoria. Robin says he will drive down to Victoria on Wednesday to meet me, so at least I won't have two bus trips to make.

All that may sound well organized, but think about it. I'm going to travel by public transport on Labour Day Weekend. Omigod. I have seen the line-ups at the bus station on long weekends, and this is the weekend before school starts. Prime Time for bus trips. In order to pull this off, I think I'll have to catch the earliest bus to Victoria - before the students have gotten up and trudged down to the depot. So what if I have a few hours to hang around in Victoria? I'll bet there's a consignment shop somewhere downtown, and I know for a fact that there's a lovely rose garden.

Never mind. I have a whole day before I must brave the dreaded bus, and in the meantime there's Friday Photo Shootout to be enjoyed - and I do enjoy it, even though I always rush through it.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Theme Thursday: Beginning

Once upon a time, there was a lady named Liza, who carried her camera wherever she went. Her photographs were a joy to behold. Liza shared her photos with her friends at Theme Thursday. In the fullness of time, the Theme Thursday folks asked her to suggest a theme. Liza spoke right up. "Beginning," she said. "Let's talk about beginning." And there it was - the beginning of this week's assignment.

No matter how hard I try to think of beginning as a verb, it keeps turning into a noun.

I know, I know. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

"I'm beginning as I intend to go on."

Of course beginning can be a verb (or even an adjective). It just feels like a noun, so I'm going to treat it (mostly) as a noun.

The image I've chosen (source here) illustrates one beginning, the beginning of a human life (well, close to the beginning). It's a time of joy and a time of hope, a fresh start - and it's the beginning of something else - a relationship between the child and her parents. This relationship grows from another relationship, that between the child's mother and father. In fact, it's hard to find the beginning of this story, because each life is connected to other lives, and something new, some new relationship, is always beginning. The child relates to her parents, then to siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents. Then she goes to school and begins her education. She also encounters other children. Some of those encounters will be the beginning of lifelong relationships.

At some point, the child, now beginning her life as an adult, might meet someone with whom she will begin a love relationship, and perhaps she will bear a child. Then the story will begin again, with a new baby, a new complex of relationships, on and on, ad infinitum.

But no. Life isn't just about beginnings. It is about endings, as well. Each beginning carries within it the seed of an ending. I am reminded of something T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets 4: Little Gidding (online source here)


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and [sic] end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments...."

When I started thinking about this post, I immediately developed an earworm - Art Garfunkel's "All I Know". It is such a lovely song, I didn't even mind, and it seems like a fitting end to this little post about beginnings - and endings.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Better U Tuesday

...and despite yesterday's excesses, I finished the week half a pound lighter than last week. All things considered, that's not too bad. Now that I have pants that fit, people are looking at me funny when I say I have twenty pounds to go to my goal. "Are you sure?" "Yes, according to the charts, I still have twenty pounds to lose."

Come to think of it, this may be the end of the BetterU programme - yes, apparently it is. I just went over to Faster Than Kudzu and found that Joshilyn's post is called "Better (Stick a Fork in) U". I guess we're done. At least, we're officially done. I still have some losing to do.

Officially, though, these are the stats:

Since I started my personal programme: 23.6 pounds lost.
Since June 1, the official BetterU start date: 17.6 pounds lost.

Had I realized that I was crossing the finish line, I'd have made sure to test my BP, but I didn't.

Thank you to all of you who have put up with these reports and said encouraging things so that I've been inspired to keep working at getting healthy (and skinny). And thanks to Joshilyn Jackson, who inspired us all.

You will note that there is no bikini photo accompanying this post. I did promise not to do that. ;>)

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