Posts by Sandy Bassie

Artist, poet, dreamer. Sandy is a stubborn advocate for those she loves. Fierce, yet tender. She holds to this: it is never too late to learn or change. The things we believe about ourselves drive our lives and choices; choose to believe the good and those will be places we soar.

Your River

May 31st. The end of the month. I’ve made it this far; not all well, not all good moments and ones that I’m proud of, but I’m here. Closer to where I want to be.

Your river.

This isn’t it. Not yet. But it is Ervine Creek. My feet in its waters. Tentative. We came here 2017. Brought your canoe down the long stone rough steps. Some peace in remembering.

I feel closer to God, closer to you, closer to myself. I want to walk in the waters until they take all my tears. I want to lower my body into the waves, more than my feet. All of me. Hear the ripples caress me. But it’s too close to last year when I’d follow you down. I’ll get there. Determined. I’ll get there. I will.

Grief has it’s burdens and living is one. I doubted my strength, that I’d see my way through. Every day has been a decision. I balance and weigh. Choosing to walk places of memory. It hurts. I won’t deny it.

I can smell the little white flowers I passed on the path. Bushes or shrubs. I never remember the name. I stopped to take it in. A second and third breath.

Cardinals sang and flew a bit closer before flying away. A seagull took one long pass down the river and another back up. A morning not wasted doing nothing but listening to the heart of the river, the creatures and myself.

At the top of the steps I met a woman and dog. We spoke for a moment of the reasons I came. Faith and belief. She’s Anglican. Smiled when I told her I talk to the light. It’s him she is certain. I thanked her for that. If I understood Morse code would I know what he said? Is it better not knowing?

How often I leave my thoughts to dangle. Mellow in the sun. June was a month of hurdles. Still thinking on those.

Home sick, a whole week. This is new.

July 15, 2022

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Honest Hope

It’s been too quiet here. I’ve been sitting with my thoughts.

This is the anniversary of the day I lost my partner, my lover, my life. Gone and not gone. My heart still holds the music of our love. Hopes and joy, the memories that twine and untwine like grasses in the wind.

I miss Jack. He listened and asked questions, drawing out my inner thoughts and words with care. “Remember, I am your safe place.” He was. He is. His words comfort still, bring smile and laughter.

It’s been a long year. I got through another loss recently. My mother, after a long run with cancer, died the first week of May. May been a difficult month the past few years. Sad memories. Learning to allow them, to listen to the wind and the breeze, weaving then intertwining the memories they find.

Still working on memoir, I move between then and now, realizing I am a different person and can let myself be. The narrator of things past, the protagonist, a woman, wife, a mother too strong to give up, too weak to leave. Faith and doubt blocking the way. Curiosity and questions always seeking, yet afraid to find. Eventually seeing. Choosing to fall, saying the words, to God and counselor, “I’m done. I’m ready to have the conversation. I need to leave. What do I do?”

One lawyer, the year before I left, said I was in a tough place. I knew that; my ex told me in our early years he would always be self employed. If I ever put him through divorce, I’d get nothing but trouble. I tend to believe people, mostly family and friends. But people in general tell you who they are if you listen. Words and silences speak their truth. I stayed too long in that marriage, even knowing the danger. Until finally, I couldn’t. Leaving was hard. I felt broken, unlovable. And then there was Jack. Healing and hope.

I took all these thoughts of pain and loss, of love and healing, north to my mother’s funeral, expecting to write. I even brought laptop and books, thinking time may allow memories. I wrote nothing or little at best. I was there for my mother’s funeral, a long year and sudden painful demise. Cancer. I spent every moment with my sisters and my sons. Grieving loss, building new friendships and bonds. Sharing laughter. It comes in oddest moments, to meanings it may or may not explain. Then laughing at it again.

In every loss, there is so much to think about, saying to myself, “don’t over think.” All week, I said it, “dint over think. ” I’m not ready for more, not ready for Jack’s memorial, and no more time to prepare. “Pick clothes, lay them out, don’t worry if they’re right. Go to work, come home and rest.”

Tomorrow will come and be what it will be. Today, the memorial. Remember Jack and see his sons. “We got through some tough stuff and built a strong relationship.” It’s what he said, making plans for things to come. It’s what I’ll say this year and the ones after, building a future with his sons, with my own, with my sisters, my family. It’s what we do. It’s how I smile, how I laugh.

It’s how the words, these and others, come. Unexpected. Unexplained. In the quiet of acceptance and the moments of readiness, so hard to allow. And yet I do. When I don’t realize I can, because I’m weak, because I’m strong. Building strength I may not see until I’m further beyond. Until I’m told what others see. Until I need strength again, and fear my weakness, but go not knowing if I can.

Life is strange. It’s like the light best seen in darkness, the breaking of day, the finding of hope, an artist’s eye seeing what moves from palette to paint surface. Light by dark colours working magic. Brighter not by denying the dark, but allowing light to see beauty where it did not see before.

My life has that feeling. Beauty. Fear. Awe. A wonder at the magic of allowing what will come. Honesty beyond words.

That’s how I was with Jack. Open to pain and honesty. Long silences. Not many words capture that place. Words are just snapshots in time too full to empty all its joy and sorrow. Honesty allows. The wind blows. Time intertwines.

I pick up a stone. One memory to hold. One visit to Jack’s grave. My books in tow I sit and write, I read to him, I chatter and laugh, looking again at his last photo to me, the day before he died. Burrs by the river, “Thought of you.” “I love you. Now stop bugging me. I’m trying to write.” My laughter. Another recent post as he worked on his book. Unfinished like our life. One day I want to read it all, and over again.

Hope. Honest hope. I leave my stone, and wonder what will come.

Gratitude

I came away with questions for myself. Looking back from this week at ways I’d interact. Look slowly and kindly. Allow I had my faults. Not the ones screamed at me, but choices, habits, fears sit close upon memory and I want to look at them. Mainly because I’m writing. Memoir. Pieces of myself, my story. They are part of it, the story.

Sometimes I think my main goal must be to see how many unused drafts I can stare at in my Drafts folder; fifteen so far. The small paragraph above is one of them. Dated January 9, 2022, it resonates hope. While I have no recollection of the week in question, my encouragement to myself in these words is to look at and look past faults, choices, habits and fears., reasons I have used to let things sit, because doing so is who I am and moving beyond is breaking a terrible rule.

February brought an email accepting a poem for a local publication; online this year again as pandemic changes brought about more blog than paper publication of items. March brought another opportunity for essay to be included in an anthology on Gratitude. That one was hard. I fought with it as I fought the topic the past two years in memoir, struggling with what to say. You can’t always repeat thoughts of pain and sorrow. After a while they get wearing even to the writer. Time, as they say, bring change, allows perspective, optimism or hope. I don’t like flogging that last one either. The whole topic reminds me of days in very good mental health groups as both participant and support where I’d struggle with our common leave-taking. Expression of gratitude.

I love the gratitude of walking among trees, sitting by streams, icecream in two flavour stacks on a double cone. The tangible moments that tug at my heart, add colour to the day, draw out my senses, calling like echoes of remembrance to places within. Words are not needed for gratitude, and though I talk to the wind, the sky and the birds, it’s not required by any of us. My favourite memories are smiles and looks that share some moment of grace. The world open up and suddenly a space holds its breath, allowing the wait. Yes, these are the moments I value the most.

And this, at best, is where I sat two silent months waiting for what, I did not know. Some call it writer’s block. Perhaps, at times. But I found so many words bursting within for other places, nowhere at all. They just didn’t fit, and I’ve learned not to force them, though it is hard to sit. My time increased at work, just touching 28 hours. Enough to keep me full-time. Not enough to keep me afloat. I think perhaps writing stalls in the places of loss, where I haven’t chosen career, haven’t braved the risk of siren’s call ‘Monetize Your Blog – three easy steps.” No. I’m pretty sure it’s more than three, and nothing wrong with doing so for those with a plan to earn a living in this way. I’m a bit off topic, but connected still.

Readiness – to write, to paint, to aim for a career – it may need more gratitude than I’ve let myself feel. I joke with fellow writers, once again ‘this year’ is the year I will risk, will submit, will step past the barricade and allow myself to be .. what? There lies the issue. I don’t know what, and a lifetime of habit has taught me to be small, and not even that. One ongoing conversation a decade back questioned the reasons within relationship, to significant other, I fought the judgement I was too big and too small. Not significant enough, but too high and mighty for his daily mood. A bad fit. A poor example, a multitude of labels, and ultimately as my mother assessed it, just the wrong personality for him.

Gratitude. I learned something this year. Looked it up. Not just in my favourite etymology site, which simply defines it as ‘pleasing, thankful’, but in heart’s home, curiosity. This time wanting to know how my love saw it, what it meant in the good places I’d found recent years, encouraged to find myself and grow, being loved as I did. And so, I asked our favourite Google how gratitude was seen in the Hebrew meaning. I found myself among trees, sitting by streams, letting memory ache with the longing of joy, places I’d touched, but not this past year. Places I need to go again, to listen to the wind, let water bugs curl in the waves by my feet. Let this place speak to me its words of tender care. A moment of grief in a lifetime of love.

I am not stuck. I may not always move forward well, but slow, like a turtle or the snails I sat by two summers past, I will get where I’m going. In writing. In life. The moments of connection with present memories allow space for me to listen and to learn. The Hebrew form of gratefulness, like I found with my love, who worked hard with me at relationship, and announced it with a smile, “we worked through some tuff stuff and built a strong relationship”. Yes, Jack, we did, and celebrated it along the way with simple smiles.

Gratitude. I looked it up. I found the Hebrew meaning in several sites, two words ‘hakarat hatov’ with their translation into English. Something beautiful to read. I like the phrase and I like the story I found in one site giving more, an example that touches my heart. Harakat hatov ‘to recognize the good’. It is a gift I will hold onto and learn to live well. And the story, possibly urban legend, about a performance by Itzhak Perlman used to demonstrate what it means.

It seems to be that year, gratitude wants to smile. I’ll wait, I’ll listen and know the good is there. What else is there to say, but thank you for this day.

For those who wish to read the story, I’ll link it here. Enjoy if you will or just wait for your own moment of gratitude, your example, your breeze.

https://jewishcamp.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Gratitude_-_Mussar_Institute.pdf

Always, a journey.

September. I didn’t post. One lonely draft on a list abandoned in the before. It doesn’t say much, just a nod to the difficulties of healing. It’s been three months, but pick up there still struggling with grief and loss experienced in May and then June when I passed out and injured my body as well as my soul.

I’ve been even more concerned with healing in the days since. Healing is hard. What do I say? I’ve been working at healing most of my life and if I was any good at it, I’d be in a different place than I am now. But healing, I see is priorities. Do I care for my body or my mind? Both hurt and need care, but my current plan, or perhaps current actions taken towards health don’t line the two up very well.

Three times this week, I caught myself telling an old story. Funny? I’m not sure. I do use humour at times to cope, but this, I think, is more irony. “If you show me a rock and hard place, I’ll find the crack and dive in.” It speaks to my frustration. And maybe my strength. I don’t know how or why, but life often managed to leave me wedged between; where others had to face the rock or hard place in more clear cut ways, I was forced to deal with both and the weight of the crack and all it contained. My attempt at humour still held too much complaint. I struggled with the weight of things I carried, unsure why or how I managed it. And, if I am honest, have a ridiculous ability to find life there.

Stubborn. Scottish. I acknowledge it now. A culture I don’t know and tried to resist. “You are what your grandfather was,” my dad would say determined I would own it. I heard them speak so strongly of their home and people growing up. Scottish. They seemed to have so much more strength than I. They lived through wars and tough things, their memories of it clear and strong. They knew the names and dates and histories of kings and queens and clans. The clans were important, more so than kings. That was my thought. Your name, your clan, your family and connections. The occasional story of a black sheep, an uncle a generation or two from me, sent here by family. His wife and any children held behind. He was abusive I think. Their solution sharp and final, a good surgical cut. It frightened me that people could do that to someone, so literally cut them off from their family. I didn’t know I may wish that myself through divorce in later years. But cutting off, I couldn’t do. I lean to others needs and still do.

I’m good at waiting, but don’t believe patience is a strong point. I’d laugh and tell people I’m not patient, just stubborn. And that has carried me through the past few months. I’m not sure stubborn counts as healing. But it’s held on and kept me going through days of 8/10 pain and learning to read the pain scale in Lego faces my son sent to me. Acknowledging feeling, listening to my body, vehemently disagreeing with it at times and coming out worse for it at the end. Learning to listen and cut life to bare minimum. Work 6 hours come home and sleep. Hydrate. Eat a little. Hydrate more. And sleep. Some days that’s all I did and woke less sore but frustrated that’s what my body demanded of me. It’s hard to be kind to myself when it remains so foreign. Still untangling the years of fear when sick, facing anger, insults and reprimands that taught me to punish myself internally for doing wrong. It isn’t wrong to heal. Not even when I take far too long. Healing is a process of listening and learning to give or to accept, maybe to receive what is needed to restore.

For the first time in life, the last few years have allowed space to talk to my doctor and slowly accept that medications may help. I am afraid of drugs, even prescription ones. It’s a habit, this fear. The first few times I had to take some came with the anger and judgement and disgust. I had to do it – thyroid out, medication required. But I ‘knew’ it was wrong. Wrong to help my body live. Wrong to cost money to do it. Healing requires purging the old ways, old thoughts, old words and judgements followed. Healing it seems is about learning to relax. To allow. To accept. To trust. To interact.

I feel bad being quiet here for several months. Even this post, had to wait. I found it lingering from the start of November, and it was recognizing a beginning in September, early fall. The time my EI was running out and I knew I wasn’t ready to pull the full weight. I’m still not there. Hovering just below. But I’m determined, perhaps that Scottish trait again. I am determined to get there, and will in the end.

Healing is a journey, at times without a map. I guess I just keep following the trail and see what it will bring.

Life. Always a journey.

I don’t know

I’m tired of being tired. Dragging and dragged over rocks of grief. Realizing the many ways and places this grief is laid out over years of unmet grief.

July 15

My first day back to work. Four hours. Folding clothes. I may not make it, there are updates to online training that need to be completed. That’s easy. I can do those. It’s the floor that scares me.

July 20

Yesterday, day three. I shook. Forced myself through four hours. Kindnesses of staff.

A coworker called me brave. I was negating myself again; fear of change, fear of loss. Berating myself for falling, hitting my head, struggling to heal. Knowing I’m not okay. Missing Jack. Showing up triggers me. Too many memories of waiting for him to come through the doors. Working apart. Not able to go to him. Listening to people yell or complain about petty things. I’m afraid. I can’t go back to listening to it right now. Doing this … staying alive and learning to grieve … it does not play fair. I had no idea.

I live with levels of stress accumulated in decades of abuse. Crisis a daily reality. I thought pain would go when I left my ex, slide back into something others call ‘normal’. I would laugh off that word telling people “normal is just the fat part of the graph. Statistics.” But this is not funny. Dissociation is a common experience of abuse, of PTSD. So are the panic attacks that wake me at 2am shaking from dreams or something I don’t remember. It’s strange how …. thoughts lost.

July 25

I had rough days this week. More than rough. I get angry at myself for them, for their unpredictability, for not being able to control myself or the days. Long hanging silences on calls to the crisis line, then sobbing because I’m frozen in bed, my body a lump of shock, sizzling. Blood pressure high, pills taken, bathroom done, back to bed, lay and shake. And so I call,

“hello, my name is …. how can I help you?”

“I, um I …” my mind and thoughts racing with guilt and grief and disasters past and pending.

The thoughts freeze in my head. Instinct. Fear; of living, being, lost and labelled. Something my ex would say, A negative judgement on who and how I am. And I can’t do it. Getting it out takes a breath, and sometimes that’s where they start. But first I give my name, the basics of identity. Then the call.

I talk and talk, through getting up, getting going, going to work. Even with the fear. A rational irrational place where emotion and action don’t fit the norm, but given the circumstances I understand. Tears or not, I have to go. I push too hard. Don’t overdo. Am warned. Holding myself back from demanding full hours. I don’t want to hurt myself again. The side of my head that hit the floor is ok, but not ok. Numb or tingles at times. Stress?

There is so much I can’t predict, so much I just don’t know. I’m trying to be ok with that; not knowing. Living and being is the hard job right now. The rest will ease in slowly, not smoothly. I hope, but am learning I can’t expect it. My body needs to purge the grief, but also years of pent up grief or things attached to it. Chaos of layers, interwoven connections, years forming. I’m just taking it a day or two at a time. Feeling useless, but knowing I’m not. Telling myself to be quiet when I want to rebuff the kindnesses and compliments of others. Still so much fear letting others in. I understood that far too well, Jack. We were kind to each other’s broken places. Love lingers in the tenderness.

Sanctuary.

Today the Tears

June 30, 2021

Another possible blog post shunted off to the drafts folder, well really, sitting there for weeks. I may come back to it, but today the tears want out. Not hard sobs, Jack, like when I first learned you drowned. These are worn, frustrated, disoriented tears. The kind that shiver through a body too drained for emotion, but ripe with it. I can picture them, tiny trails gasping their way across scorched rock, cracked clay. Winding through evidences of distress or trauma. Ridiculous. Hope filled lines, tiny breaths rushing between scenes trying to avoid excess anything.

I slept three hours again between noon and three. Not true. I set the alarm, but my body fought letting go at the beginning and surfaced confused, too soon at the end. There wasn’t really a plan for the day anyway. Good thing. There was a brief hour or two of clarity at the beginning where I looked at my journal, reviewed some poetry, and made notes for longer writing.

But phone calls. I’m not over remembering the call, ‘silence’, him assessing the wait as I sobbed. Already knowing why he called. “Jack drowned this weekend.” Memory is tactile for me. It’s how I process. I still feel your body warm beside me, your hands gentle, your kisses soft, and one desperate upon my mouth, before you left. Wanting me. Loving me.

It’s hard feeling things intensely. Touch is important. I joked for years that I listen through my hands. They spent enough time with language falling off them. ASL. My smile at your forming ILY and smiling proud you got it. I love you. Those memories I want to feel. But lately, my body listens too hard. It yells over the memories of smiles. It yells loss.

May long weekend. I felt your heart stop touching mine. I felt it going, fighting it leaving. I tumbled with your heart. I felt it go. I begged to be wrong. And words. The call. I hate words. I love them. I want you Jack, your words, love, laughter, and all the joy I had remembering them. Waiting for you to come home. I have the memory, and words telling me you’re gone. They hit my chest in a wave of imbalance, a tug of fear. Shock.

Why is grief so much fear? Loss such a chasm?

It crashes in where it doesn’t belong. The dentist’s office calling. Jacob’s appointment. Another kind voice, explaining, rationalizing, insisting I understand. I do. But the telling, and retelling. Reasons they may not see Jacob, may not keep him as a client, flood over me. I can’t hold memory together. Focus. Listen. Their email bounced back. No way to call. Who do they email? Why they are calling me. No way to reach his staff. Simple. Fact. Context. Clear. I want to hear what they are saying. That it isn’t because they don’t like him, that it isn’t because he doesn’t need them. That they just need connection. But all I hear is the swish and score of water dragging rocks. Heaving me over the edges. My body. My head swirls.

I apologize and excuse myself. Promise to follow up with the group home. Let them know if I can get through. And even though their words say not my responsibility, I’m awash in words on why they called, I can’t hold them separate. They are loss over loss.

I can’t. Not today. Why? I slept. I’m sure I slept.

Did I sleep? I don’t know. And so I sleep again. After the call. After my text. And two or three emails, to group home manager and staff. Searching out clues. Who do I tell? What do I ask? Why is there an email address I haven’t used and dentist said bounced. And the answer comes back. Adamant. The address is right. It’s the one everyone can access. So I try. But it bounces. Flings itself up and over, bounces back without any sense of why. So I email again to the manager and dentist. One note combined. One clear, concise ask – why? I don’t know. It doesn’t work. Why? Apology. I hope they talk.

And all of this means nothing to the day to day I need to heal. I’m working at it. My head. My heart. My job. Go back to work. Jump box to box, work and home, go back to it all. Rocks I can’t miss. My body complains. At more than this drudge of tears that won’t come.

Why is so much of life about disconnecting? Losing and loss.

I wonder if the motions of my day mean anything at all. Shoppers stuffing buggies with mis-labelled essentials. Pop. Chips. Multi-buys of chocolate bars. Wanting baby clothes we used to share. They say things are opening up. I wonder. Logic disappeared months ago in swirls of ideas like water down the drain. I don’t know anymore what I don’t know. I pushed hard the last months, all my best storytelling used up on pictures drawn in the air. ASL categories, this one and that. Grocery and garden centre, front end with online, eventually curbside. Store areas mapped out as claw-hands drop in locations separate but all there. And cell phone, photo at the ready, curbside number to call. Will it still be that? Wipe, wash, story to spin. Swish. Swirl. A rock falls in, dropped from the air. Ideas weighing. Nothing that helped me hold you. Not Jacob either. He went, but isn’t gone.

I want to hold on, hold together. Know my hands are worth more than grasping at air.

There is no guarantee. No one who can promise me what will come. Just me, in the river. Thrashing. Nose above water. Flailing imagination. Covid brought colours and labels like waves over rocks. Bruises piling up. Mapping the years. Last year and this, promise and pain. Have I ever held on? Has anything I ever wanted held together? Why does it feel like so much repetition? Loss. Longing. The distance between. And always I’m reaching for a solution, a way to hold it together.

She’s right. I come back to it. The sound of her voice, rushing like water. Like she said, it’s not my responsibility. But responsibility isn’t what I was trying to hold. I wanted your love. I wanted time. Not these tears. They come and they fade. Evaporate in air.

Breathe. I have your love. I do. That I will hold.

Writing Life

I started May’s blog post several times. Got nowhere. The long post I eventually arrived at by June 3rd has been saved to files and deleted here.

7:30am June 6th and I’m starting fresh, though that’s a strange word for the circumstances and my now chronic lack of sleep. I passed out sometime shortly after 6pm and retrieved laundry from the dryer down the hallway around midnight when I awoke. Today, I have an essay to tidy and send off to a magazine whose current theme of ‘ancestors’ finally got coherent words from my tired and broken heart.

That said, this will be short. Off the cuff.

I emailed a note to a local councilor, telling her that I’d like to talk about a request to name or re-name several local streets in honour of persons with indigenous heritage. I have never put such a request forward before. This one flows out of grief, in honour of someone to whom it mattered greatly, and who was still pursuing a request made several years ago.

The past five years (or nearly) I have had the joy of being in a relationship with a man named Jack who died over the May long weekend pursuing another love of his life, whitewater paddling.

Jack was away teaching in a Cree community in northern Quebec. We spoke every day by text or in Facebook. I started to share my loss here, but found it becoming too poetic. I have written actual poems to Jack these last few years and may write a few more. He was an amazing man, the kindest, most gentle and generous man I know. Honest. Full of compassion and integrity. He brushed it off when I told him so, “Then you’re the only person who knows. Most people think I’m a pain.” I don’t believe that, and would reply, “If so then they aren’t listening.”

It’s still too soon after hearing you died, Jack. I wake shaking some days in shock. I read back through conversations shared and look at how many video calls show up on your side of the conversation thread. I’m glad you wanted so much to talk to me, to share your hopes and joys. To let me know how surprised you are it took you so long to say you love me. I shared it with one of your sons last week, and continue to grieve with him that it wasn’t your way to say it more. I understand why it was so hard for you, and why I said it too much. We shared places in our pasts I’m finally digging deep to understand.

I’m listening now, as I write, to Gabor Mate; a recommended listen from someone I volunteer with in mental health. Wisdom I’ll come back to more this year.

I wish we had more time to enjoy each other’s laughter, the gentleness we shared, ways we gave each other space and were discovering some of the things this man describes that need to heal. Not complicating them with demands, just offering understanding and giving each other permission to ‘not fix’. You said that to me early on, ‘don’t fix’. One of the reasons I told you I thought you were wise. So much of my life was responsibility and demands to fix things not mine to touch. You healed me in a way, just giving me space and telling me I need to respect myself and follow my dreams. Then showing me how, letting me watch you and admire your bravery.

I wonder if we messed that up just a bit at the end. You pushed yourself too hard at times. Your wrist was hurting from last time out. I was afraid you were going again too soon.

We had just four weeks to wait until you were home. You told me every day, soon, and let me know how excited you were coming back me. But the short time pressed against your list of things you wished you’d done last fall when the weather allowed you out on the waters. I understood it from the rush of photos you shared, the video rides you took me on coming back from the land. Waiting for open water. “I wish you could come up.” But the borders had been closed. “I wanted you to see.” I wanted that too. You did your best.

And now, I have to wait a little longer still. I love you, Jack.

Waiting for Spring

April is spring and flowers and beauty and outdoors and sitting on my back deck watching the squirrels chase their way around the pole to the feeder. There is peace in watching the small things. So many birds and small animals grace the yard.

The store is quieter with lockdowns, but there are still shoppers. I’m longing for spring. Seeds and potted plants in many sizes leave looking for gardens every day. I want them. Some already fill spots in front or back garden, and I can picture them, anticipate the colours that will fill the gardens in the coming months.  

We talk as they ring things through. Sometimes I mention the longing, how I miss my house, the bond that forms between gardener and growth, a shock of realization for me, home was outside. The plants held my heart in place.  Not only the peace of times spent there, but the can and can’t of some of the work. My sons doing harder digging or moving of things than I could do. My sons, anchored in that place, house and garden – memories, good and bad, held in context of the places they occurred.

Memories feel tangible; I remember the warmth of a smile, a look, a movement made, the tone of voice, the way a room, the deck, garden, plant or soil felt. Warmed by sun or darkened by mood. Remember.

Someone may ask how I do it. They often do. Ask. Did. Ask.

How do you get Jacob to communicate with you. How do you stand the abuse, the hours put in at two schools balancing needs, the physical effort of Jacob hanging on you, your own injuries.

How do you smile so much. Laughter. If you didn’t have your quirky sense of humour, you’d probably be dead.

I wonder. If the flowers still grow. If the bird feeder is still there. Do the rabbits come, and squirrels. Do blue jays have fights over fresh poured seeds. I saw the fence was gone. New windows stared at me. I wonder. Do you spend time in the gardens? See the same miracles of spring. Wonder. Do you think of me.

Never met. May never meet. Still I think of you. I miss my house, the gardens most. At times I cry for wanting. Remembering comes hard. Distance and the longer view remind me there were things I loved. Beauty comes in many forms. Even our broken places held beauty. Too fragile to not break.

We live apart. Shattered. Borrowed space. Concrete walls. I wish for the world, the great outdoors. Cohesive. The only lines it draws form waterways, cliff edge, a tree line.

Balcony plants. Can’t feed the birds. Don’t tie anything to the posts. Behind the screen of tempered glass. There is no grass to touch my feet, no buzzing bees to hum me tunes. Tiny birds dart quickly past. Red heads where once yellow bright as the corn, came bold within an arms length.

I must climb down. On my own. Cross lanes of concrete. Man-made lights still glowing in the break of day. Walk to find where houses still hold space for sharing. Where trees are tall enough to climb and host nests to birds and squirrels. Open doors for calling. Sounds of spring. Lingering.

Beneath your trees. At sidewalk edge. I hover. Waiting for spring.

Imperfections

February’s been a rough month. March too. I ping between okay and ‘oh so over it’. I’ve hit the wall. All I have left is to write about it.

On one hand, I have a small box called apartment. It’s crammed full of left over bits of past life and the one I’m trying to live now. Creativity wages war with it daily; art and writing supplies, music all fight for space.

I write regularly, paint occasionally. Mostly my keyboard and guitar cower against one wall, asking me to practice. I paid for a month of guitar lessons, tossed a penny into the well of expectation and hope it brings good things. Last week, encouraging words from my teacher assured me that regardless of my frustration with ‘only’ practicing one song and one scale, I have done a good job. Okay. I’ll bite. I’ve done well. Now believe it.

I want to improve my art. Create paintings I love and learn to part with them. To do that, I need a better grip on money and budgets both for home and sales. Even if it’s just for fun, I’d like enough to replenish supplies, I need to let myself learn the basics of give and take, hobby or business.

I want to release things I’ve written. Send them further out. Not just the one or two places I know who are open to it. I want to push past the barriers and broaden my reach.

What scares me about writing? People tell me I’m good, I have a raw way of writing. It draws people. They see it in pieces I’m doing for a memoir. Say, I have a strong, staccato style to my poetry. I read a list of possible literary magazines suggested to me. I probed their online offerings and re-read. Decided to write a cover letter and choose some poems to send.

But then, a tangible restraint on my arms. typing has weight. sleep falls upon me, passing out like with a migraine. and less obvious shut down, internal, my body folds in on itself, origami folding into invisibility. impossible. i need to move. i need to …. submit …. ringing past intentions, rules that bind. breathe swallowed up within lungs that strain hesitation.

Words. They lean towards poetry. They leap at opportunity, but cringe at expectation. Dear words, can you help? I want you to know full expression. I hope this year to let you fly.

Counting Time: 3, 5, 7

February 3, 2021

I’m tired.

People will tell you that is my standard answer. It’s often true, but not always. January felt heavy and I was tired too often. Falling asleep at 6:30 leads to waking at 2:00 and days where the hours slide sideways down the clock. I still think in analogue even though I read digital in both 12 and 24 hour formats. Work and home, home and work; even my battery clock is analogue designed with a false tick, tick, tock. Some nights it comforts me, others it annoys. The month slid by all comfort and annoyance.

Today I will go to work. This is my middle day. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have off, but Wednesday sits wobbling in between. Those who regularly see me in the morning will ask next time why I wasn’t there, whether I’d been off work, and I will say no. I worked afternoon to evening. Not a favourite shift, but not the worst. I’d rather open and then have the afternoon to walk and write or do art. I would if the energy didn’t drain so quickly, The last few weeks, I have done less than I want and my brain says none at all. I’m writing here so that can’t be true. I do write, just not the things I feel are creative or that fit my goals. I’d like to focus more when I have the time and accomplish things I’m struggling to achieve; poem, book or blog.

But I don’t practice enough. Not art, not music, not even words. Want is a strange thing. I want to play songs, but I don’t practice the notes enough to give them flow. I want to do art that sells, but I haven’t offered any to the few people who show interest. I want to be a writer, but I submit so seldom even though I look and look at places where I could send. Why? Is it fear, laziness, lack of skill or desire? Asking pumps adrenaline through my system, grabbing all of my attention, stealing it away from paint, sounds, and story. Images and words spin around me, I hang like a child in the Tilt-a-Whirl, remnants of childhood and challenges faced. Hold on, hold on, the ride will end. The ticket booth not far away.

Getting through January was exhilarating and exhausting. Irritating. I struggle on at work and want to see friends who are still living home bubbles. One day we will sit over tea and reminisce. At the moment, my contacts and connections are all digital or work related. My life, my experience.

I want to do some writing. Get Coursera finished. Write a poem. Finish my memoir. Nothing is moving. I tried here in WordPress and ended up making some notes into my phone.

Why do I have so many words and why do they feel so useless?

The world is a-kilter. Does it kill? I feel tipped over. But we aren’t allowed that relief, tipping over is a symptom of the current times. As are coughing, sneezing, sweating, being tired. Walk carefully. I see runners and we try to avoid each other. I’d avoid them anyway, but this year we mask everything, avoiding as much as we can, and feel guilty if we make eye contact with those we pass on the random trips around the corner for a change of view and fresher air than lives inside the boxes of rest and activity that are home and work.

Listening to Anne Lamott as I type is soothing. She’s talking about jealousy and ravaged bodies. It’s an old scene in YouTube talking about her life and efforts in writing. Not yet at bird by bird but living it. I think she’s reading from it in draft?  There is clapping and laughter. I like laughter. A friend telling me he likes my laugh. Tell me you like my laugh. It makes me smile even more.

February 7, 2021

The week, like my night, blurs. I sat on the couch with my phone waiting for 8pm when a ‘saved event’ was to start. The reminder arrived at 7:30, a good half hour before the event. I left it idling while I played with French in Duolingo. Found both at 1 am still idling but now tucked down inside of the couch. By 4 am all I have achieved is a few thoughts in my phone, some articles forwarded to myself to read again later (my newsfeed may hold them, but I don’t count on it), and this – realizing a work week has passed since I began this post. I found the Anne Lamott video half finished where I left it in YouTube and let another 5 to ten minutes of it play while I write here. Time seems too long and too short this year. I wrote a note at work Friday to prompt myself for a new post. Imperfections. It made me smile Odd. There are so many and lately we are so aware (and still unaware?).

My shift today is afternoon/evening. I’ll come back to my thoughts on imperfections later. For now. Another run at sleep. I’ve turned off the 5:15 alarm. If I can manage to grab an hour or two it may not help, but may ward off falling asleep on my feet before end of shift. Today will go like hundreds of others the past year or two. I’ll head to work hoping the day is kind, hoping I don’t fall asleep the moment I get home, hoping for life and laughter to be the things I remember well. I’ll tell people I’m tired, and be told I always am. I’ll spend more time than I wish too close to strangers, a little time talking to to those who ask if I’m ever not there, those glad I am there, and those who ask earnestly how I am; glad I’m still doing okay. Mostly I’ll give thanks for the online conversations I get to have with those who love me, who make me smile in ways that reach my core and laugh at outrageous or trivial things in our day.

Today, like every other day (if you believe those who say so), people will ask how I am and I will tell them I am tired. It will be true. I will push myself through it again. I may fall asleep too early tonight and repeat this pattern. But at 4 am my end of day reasons to smile still exist in the smiling faces of those who love me, the occasional memes or jokes they send me through the day, and their appreciation of my laughter.

I may yawn behind my mask, but I’ll laugh. I love laughter and the many ways those who love me realize it. And these are the things that count.