Saturday, March 18, 2017

to matter

A pair of old photos from my mothers childhood makes me smile and nod and ponder. I like to think of them as Exhibit A and B.
Exhibit A, above, shows my visiting great grandmother Minerva. It also shows my Aunt Fran, the toddler beaming on the left, and on the right, my mother. My very, very sad little mother.. Smack dab in the center is a cousin, the little interloper. She has traveled by train across the Rocky Mountains with Gramma Minerva. There is something recognizable in her pose. It's HER Gramma Minerva.  There is also something recognizable in my mother's pose, something so unusual that it stands out like a beacon.
My mother is Sad.
Exhibit B is very telling. The photographer, likely my own kind Gramma has sized up the situation. My Very Sad Mother has now been given the place of honor at Gramma Minerva's knee.
Baby Fran's smile has faded.
There is angst in the air.
Little Interloper has taken up her new position unimpaired and has a hand possessively and comfortably placed.
My mother's mood remains unaltered. Very Sad still has her in its grip. In fact, she may now have added Very Put Out.

Time has swirled by since that long ago afternoon.
Lots and lots of time.
My mother has always been known for the sweetness of her disposition and the steadfastness of her optimistic, friendly nature, for her remarkably ever ready smile.
But here, in black and white is the evidence.
She was once a little girl just like any other little girl.

The steady smile of Great Gramma Minerva, the comforting warm sun, a kindly photographer.... all come together in these pictures.
They prove the universal need we all have to feel important and special.
To matter.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

how startling

You'll never believe what I saw on my way to work.
I could hardly believe my eyes.
I actually cried out in surprise.
There it was silhouetted against the gray sky near the top of a giant tree.
Way, way, way up in an old cottonwood..
Too big for the branch it huddled on, it nervously waved a paw in the air as if trying to flag down help.
Call 911.
Call the Fire Department.
Call the SPCA. 

It was a raccoon.
A very tense raccoon, clutching a branch high overhead.
It looked so out of place.
A big round ball of fur like an oversized Christmas ornament.
The branch it clung to seemed fearfully small.
What would have made a full grown raccoon climb for its life.
No dog in sight.
No people.
My car sped on but the raccoon remained firmly fixed on memories big screen.

That evening, the news reported a missing wallaby in the Langley area. A pet wallaby from the other side of the world.
It apparently hopped away.
Sprang off into the unknown.
How startling for our native wildlife.
To be ambling along, nibbling here and sniffing there to glance up at approaching footfall. Bounding footfall.
Stranger danger!
A tall tree could seem a necessity.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Before there was Google Translate, there was Giuseppe Mezzofanti, chief Vatican librarian, who could fluently speak 50 languages and translate 114 more. Wow! And I can't even read both sides of a cereal box. That wouldn't have held back Sir John Bowring. He, a British governor of Hong Kong, could speak 100 languages and read 100 more. Owed it all to his dictionary collection I bet.  Mind you, what's not to love about dictionaries, words rolling off your tongue, foreign and unknown. They were some of my favourite books when I was young. I especially loved the lists of words arranged by grade level at the front of the World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, A-K. Vocabulary and spelling from Grade One to College were there, tantalizing and tempting. Words, wonderful words. And of course I loved the Merriam Websters Dictionary, wedged in my desk. Loved its small sketched illustrations too.

I've been savoring two delicious reads of late.
May I recommend Native Tongues by Charles Berlitz. If you love trivia you'll adore this book. Everything you ever wanted to know about language is there for your edification and entertainment.
And I've also been reading Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. He is brilliant and poetic and completely captivating. He refers to at least ten authors whose books have inspired his own writing and they have been added to 'the list,' along with his other works, The Old Ways, The Wild Places, Holloway, and Mountains of the Mind.

Hay alegria en el aprendizaje!! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


"We went to the store where you just look at things," my granddaughter says casually, by way of making conversation. "And they have animals there that are like statues."
"Oh," I muse,  a light dawning. "Cabala's. Yes, they have many animals don't they?"
She nods soberly. "One was looking at me Gramma and I was terrified." I hug her a little tighter. "It had hair all over," she says. "And I didn't know what it was," she adds, her eyes wide.
"Goodness," I exclaim. "Was it a bear?"
"Gramma," she says, "I know what a bear is."
"Oh, yes, yes of course," I murmur, "Was it a cougar?"
"I don't know what a cougar looks like," she admits.
I describe one but she looks skeptical.
"Was it a raccoon," I ask hopefully.
"It was big Gramma," she exclaims.
Off we go to consult Google but nothing seems to fit.
I am left pondering a strange and hairy creature with wild eyes.
It has made me remember a mystery creature I once looked at with my own wild eyes.
Fortunately, it never saw me.
I was fifteen I think.
I had hiked up Mt. Cook near Blue River.
Up into the mountain alpine country.
A morning trek alone brought me down to the edge of a small lake. As I stood gazing out over the water I heard the strangest sound. It was almost a jingle. A tinkle of claws on rock and a growl repeated like a chant.
And there it was.
My mystery creature.
I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at.
The creature looked fiercely to the left and right before quickly lapping water. Then It turned and trotted stiffly off.
It hadn't seen me, shielded as I was by a bush.
When I rushed breathless and wide eyed to the cabin, my cousin listened to my description with an incredulous look.
"It must have been a bobcat," she said.
"But it had a tail," I cried.
She gave me that look.
You know the one.
Years, and years later, in a museum display that included taxidermy I spied my mystery creature.
It was a Wolverine. 
Do you think it was too late to be terrified?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

at his feet

We've had ice. That fact is so unusual it has made the news more than one evening this January. Ice, ice, ice. Of course, it began as snow. We all rushed to our windows with gasps of joy when the first flakes began to fall. Most of us did. And we gasped with joy as the snow continued and STAYED OVERNIGHT!  
Cue a change in the background music.
There is something unnerving about coastal snow. Something not so joyous. One moment it's as airy as fairy cotton candy. And then....where ere foot or tire treads it transmogrifies into ice.
Rain usually rescues us.
Snowmen droop and lean and slump.
Lawns green up.
Roads shine wet and dark.
Children's lips tremble....
This year though, rain was busy somewhere else and couldn't come. The thermometer dipped down low and the ice held sway.
There was ice absolutely everywhere. Great chunks of it.
And that was how my grandson made his amazing discovery.
How he found something both amazing and startling frozen fast in a chunk of ice.
It caught his eye.
The colors.
The prism of light and color.
He bent, wonderingly and picked up a chunk of ice.
Inside, glinting and glowing was a piece of the rainbow.
Has anyone ever found a piece of the rainbow before?
The Boy Who Found The Rainbow.
Sounds like the title of a fairy tale.
A strange, bleak wind howled across the polar seas.
It raced along the Rockies and plunged down, down through forest and river towards the sea.
A rainbow hung glistening in the pale evening sky.
A blast of icy breath and it was frozen.
Frozen, then shattered into a million pieces. 
And one lay at his feet.
At the feet of the boy and he bent and looked, surprise alight in his eyes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

zero and beyond

My granddaughter told me this morning that her doll is zero. She is referring to its age of course. Zero. Poor dolly; so young she doesn't even register on the Richter Scale of aging.
I was zero once too. And then I was one. Oh happy day. Then I was big enough to ride the wonderful galloping horse that was pastured in my grandparents living room. It was an amazing contraption and took up nearly as much space as a real pony. I think it really belonged to my cousin who lived downstairs in a compact suite. Too compact, and so the marvelous steed was stabled upstairs. It looks like my grampa made a small modification to the joy ride. A pretty stout two by four allows equestrian spirited toddlers to mount and dismount all by themselves. It is good to fan the flames of independence.

This is one of my favourite photos of myself.
I remember the horse.
It was a Palomino.
And I remember the wool rug with kaleidoscope flecks of color.
And I can even remember glancing over my shoulder warily as I rode grimly onward.
It was because of the cuckoo clock high on the wall.
I was scared of the little bird that lived inside.
It was so unpredictable......

But still I rode ever onward into two and three and four and beyond.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

gathering dust

My littlest granddaughter asked if she could have a bath.
She happily sang as water filled the tub.
She called for toys.
And more toys.
Her big sister arrived from school.
In a blink she had joined her sister.
They played 'otters at the aquarium' and 'otters in the sea.'
They splashed and rolled and splashed some more.
Their long hair turned into seaweed.
Waves lapped.
Soon they were huddled under fluffy towels and pointing toes into pantlegs and socks.
Hair was de-tangled while we debated braids and ponytails.
We settled on the blow dryer.
It has been gathering dust in a bottom cupboard.
I plugged it in.
There was a loud bang.
And a puff of awful, acrid smoke.
I don't know if I threw it down or if it lept out of my hand on its own.
We fled to the fresh air of the living room.
My poor blow dryer has shuffled off this mortal coil with a flourish.
Hey...doesn't it give new meaning to the old expression, 'going out with a bang.'?