Friday, November 19, 2010

I may not be a morning person, but he sure as hell is.

It was still dark when I opened my eyes. Today I woke up a full twenty minutes before my alarm and for once I didn't just take advantage and fall back to my pillow. This may have had something to do with an insistent prodding from the foot of the bed.


I swept the kitchen floor before unrolling my mat. The dust moved in beguiling eddies, inviting someone to play. I shooed him to little avail.  


I stretched out, feeling my spinal column click into place.

Cat pose. So-called because of the way it invites the household pet to curl up underneath your torso.

Inhale, arch your back and look up.

(Shove the cat off the mat.)

Exhale, bow your back and look down.

(Shove the cat off the mat.)

Inhale, arch your back and look up.

(Shove the cat off the mat.)

And so on with each pose. I couldn't lay my hands on the heinous spray bottle so I improvised and flicked water at him from the nearby tap. It worked. For about ninety seconds.

There's probably a lesson in there. About tolerence and finding peace within the chaos of life. Can I learn the lesson while hissing that he's an evil, interfering little troll?

Eventually we reached a compromise. He flopped over on his side right next to the mat. Touching it with the tips of his paws. I, in turn, made some effort not to land on his tail.

I was statuesque in seated meditation. Pure white marble, shining with the light of the gods. He circled me, a complete disregard for deference, and rubbed his chin against my circled thumb and forefinger. Enlightenment is challenging with fifteen pounds of fur and menace climbing all over your lap.


By now the sky had lightened. Branches made zigzags against an indigo backdrop. Movements could be heard in the apartment above ours as I rolled up the mat (might I have flicked it with unecessary vigor because I know it startles him? Of course not). One car, down the street, pulled away and left for work. And then, soon after, another.


I switched the light on in the bathroom, getting ready to shower. He beat me to my task and jumped, eager, from the ground to the toilet to the sink. Imploring me to turn on the tap. But not too much, lest he soak his whiskers.

When I stepped out of the shower, dripping, I found there was only a small corner of the bath mat available to me. Even a cascade of drops did not deter my interloper. Nor did a towel to the face. Oh no, that was just a plaything and had him on his back sprawled out, batting at the frayed edge and pushing me off onto the tile.


I congratulated myself when I saw the time.

I have a full half-hour for breakfast. That means coffee. 

My daredevil companion curled around my feet as I put the tiny espresso pot on the bright red burner. What are scaldings, nicks from the paring knife I use to cut up a plum, or bruises from a fall when they come with such love, such devotion? 

I wanted to curse him but when I saw him trotting ahead of me, towards the living room couch, and I saw his low-slung cat belly swaying and his paws pitter-pattering my anger gave way to mirth. 

We sat together while I ate. I knew he was just siddling up to me because he was greedy for the yogurt in my bowl, but who can resist such softness, such perfect feined feline adoration?


I closed the door on my way out, not running for once, just heading out for work unflustered, unhurried. I caught a glimpse of him, settling in atop the plumpest pillow on the supplest part of the couch. He was licking white droplets from his muzzle and adjusting his whiskers so as to appear suitably rakish and handsome. I turned the key and shook my head, smitten as always.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


1999 – Montreal

Daytime talk shows are not the best company to keep but I am the night shift manager at a Second Cup and I have little to occupy me in the period between waking and working.  So, one winter afternoon finds me stretched out on my roommate’s couch flicking between our five or so channels.

Rosie O’Donnell is interviewing an English writer I’ve never heard of. The writer seems a bit star struck, not used to the attention of Hollywood. Rosie is raving about the book. A kids book, something to do with magic. The writer tells us that she wrote it on napkins in a café while her infant daughter napped. They flash the cover. Rosie makes the writer swear to cast her in the movie.

“And mark my words audience – there will be a movie!”

The segment ends with Rosie giving this woman a computer. So she can write the sequel on something more substantial than a napkin.


Within a week I make my way over to the Chapters on Saint Catherine. The kids’ books are on the bottom level, but it isn’t the bright cornucopia it will become. I brush aside cobwebs and scan the shelves.

A guy in a red vest goes by with a cart.

“Can I help you find something?”

I give him the title. I’ve forgotten the author, but it doesn’t matter. He’s never heard of it.

“Thanks anyway.”

I turn back and with some diligence turn up a trade paperback with a red locomotive, billowing purple steam and a boy with a jagged scar on the cover.

1999 – Montreal (a few months later)

Things have gotten tricky. I am not a happy person.

Home. I need to go home.


I am at the airport. Someone that I love has brought me here, and knows I’m going but doesn’t understand why. He is the kindest person I have ever met. My heart breaks to leave him, but every instinct tells me that to save myself I’ve got to go home.

A painful goodbye, a take-off.  Above the clouds I pull out the book I brought to read. To take my mind off things a bit. There’s a flying car on the cover. It’s silly and sweet and it lulls me all the way across the granite Shield, the endless prairies, over the jagged edge of the Rockies, to where my province dips her toes in the Pacific.

1999 – Mission, BC

The air is so clean, so wet and green. My lungs drink it in. I am dizzy from the sudden influx of oxygen.

I go to the grocery store with mom, trailing behind her. I am a child again, it seems. I pick up gourmet jelly beans and a book. Some kind of bird-creature on the cover, wings outstretched. It’s a little thrilling to discover that the third one in the series is already out. It’s a comforting place to put my aching brain.

2000 – Vancouver

Things have improved in leaps and bounds. The hardest part is that once your mind has dipped into those dark places, once it knows the way, it threatens to return with ease at some slight provocation. You get a bit wary of the possibility of relapse.


The fourth book is coming out, and I'm looking forward to it.

I wander over to the Chapters on Robson Street to pick up a copy on release day. It's only midday and I am surprised to discover that they’ve already sold out.

2003 – Hamilton, On.

I am in this town learning to be a midwife. For a brief span it is my calling, my life’s work. I am happy, working hard and in good company.


Lesson learned: I pre-order my copy of book five at a little local bookshop. I am not the only one.

2005 – St. Catharines, On. and then Montreal (again)

I have left the midwifery program. I don’t know it yet but it will be for good. As in, for ever, and also for my own good. For good. It is good that I left. But it also fills me with grief for the loss of this image I’ve forged of myself. Now I can never be her. Now I have to create a new her

I find my way back to Montreal, and to him. Even with this new crisis I am in better spirits, better health than last time. I find that despite the time and everything that has passed there is still love. He is still the kindest person I have ever met.


Summer. Once again I find myself at the Chapters on St Catherine. This time, instead of rooting through a basement trough I am shuttled upstairs to a special table that’s been set up on the third floor. A long, snaking line is forming for book six. Looking at the crates piled everywhere, I think they’ve ordered enough copies.

2006 (Christmas) – Montreal

Best gift ever. Better than the Barbie camper van I got when I was seven. Better than the combo tv/vcr as a graduation gift. Better than a diamond ring.

I get an ipod. 

No big deal, everyone has them. Except it is a big deal, it is magic. Portable music. Of course I’ve been doing that since I slid “Fields of Fire” into my neon yellow walkman in 1986. But did you know that you can get books on these things? Audiobooks? People who read to you, leaving your hands free to chop carrots or paint or enter data while the story washes over you?
It’s a revelation. 

2007 – Still Montreal

The heat of summer hasn’t really hit. It still feels nice to be outside, at night.
I do something unspeakably nerdy. I attend a release party that culminates at midnight, when the bookshop sellers are contractually allowed to hand over our copies of book seven. The last one there will ever be.

The party is painfully tiny. It’s painful in a lot of ways. It’s like the smallest Star Trek convention ever held. Still, it is fun and I float home on a city bus crowded with adults sporting striped scarves and stuffed snowy owls. I think they went to bigger parties.


I wonder if, for the other attendees, this is tantamount to filling a prescription for antidepressants. That sounds crazy. Am I crazy? I have no interest in dressing up as characters. I am only mildly interested in the film versions. I've never read any of the slash fiction, I swear. I don’t have a great deal of difficulty in predicting the outcome of this epic. I count other books, other authors as my precious favourites. But there is something about this series that coos to my hind-brain and makes me glad.


I finish the last sentence later that weekend, on a breezy terrace. A short bus ride away from where I began the first sentence, nine years ago, but a world away none the less. 

At first I hate the ending. With subsequent re-readings I will come to like it. At that moment, setting the book down, I feel bereft. But also, grateful.  

Present – Montreal

The books gather dust, but I’m sure I will pull them out again one day, when I have someone small to read them to. The audio versions get played about once a year. Or when I can’t sleep. Or when I’m agitated. It is an auditory soother, hot cocoa for my ears. It’s silly and sweet and lulls my mind away from those dark traps. It’s a tiny point of light when I need it to be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I love the way taking out of focus pictures makes them look like polaroids. Or at least it does to my eyes. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Struck Dumb

I've taken a vow of silence. 

Not to get closer to god, but because if I speak I end up having coughing fits that turn my lungs inside out. Nasty allergies morphed this week into a nasty cold. Poor me, right? Not since that one time when I was twelve have I smoked a cigarette, but still I sound like a 90 year old with emphysema. 

No point in seeing a doctor. The same thing happened last year and I went and all he did was give me something to help me sleep. Which I never took anyway. I just have to wait it out with lozenges and endless pots of Cold Formula tea. And silence. But enough about my gummed up alveoli. 


Earlier this week I was getting my lunch in the break room at the office. It's up on the second floor and the window was open. Someone walked by on the sidewalk below, sending up an operatic chorus. I poked my head out to catch a glimpse of this passing Carmen but no one was there. 


The annual arboreal fireworks display has commenced. I know, it's such a cliché to get excited about leaves. I don't care.

I grew up on the west coast and so everything east of the wheat fields was "Back East" and made me think of knee socks, ivy creeping over brick and maple syrup. This time of year it's true. This time of year I can just about convince myself that I live on the set of a made-for-TV Halloween movie. It makes me forgive all my seasonal ailments. 


Adrien and I went for breakfast this morning. He brought a newspaper as I am mute. I wanted to write about how the loss of one sharpened all my other senses. But then I remembered that speech is not a sense. It feels like one. 

In the car I pulled out my notebook and asked him questions at a red light. 

"Is this a new cd?"


"It's all achy songs."

(Raised eyebrows.)

"A good ache."


Some of the music he listens to gives me a lovely, terrible ache. The kind of feeling that comes from having a hopeless a crush. It's nothing to do with the lyrics, most of which I don't even know. It's the music itself, the lowing melody. 

If Adrien's musical tastes could be distilled into one word, that word would be "catchy". 

If my musical tastes could be distilled into one word, that word would be "unsurprising". I wouldn't say that I have bad taste - who says that about themselves? - but I am not edgy. Still, Alissa convinced me to go out last month to see Juliette Lewis and that felt slightly edgy. Although that admission likely just proves my lack of edge.

Here is one of the songs from Adrien's mix:


Whenever we're out and I see a car pass by with BC plates my heart gives a little lurch of recognition. 


Je n'écris jamais en français. Pourquoi? Ma vie ici est bilingue. J'aimerais voir plus de films et livres qui sont bilingues. Je veux dire, un mélange. C'est comme ça ici, en réalité. Souvent les conversations sont un mélange. Des mots anglais répondent des mots français. Et l'invers. Des phrases moitier-moitier. Des accents, des anglicisms. 

Aujourd'hui j'ai vu un panneau pour A&W qui offrait: 
"1 oncle burger pour 3.00"
Ça fait bizarre. 

I never write in French. Why? My life here is that way. I'd love to see more films and books in both languages. Mixed together, I mean. It's like that here, in real life. Conversations are often a blend. English words answer French ones. And the other way around. Half and half sentences. Accents, Anglicisms. 

Today I saw an ad outside A&W that offered: 
"1 oncle burger pour 3.00"
Which sounds odd. 


On the way home today a car passed in the lane next to us, revving the motor. It was an ordinary sedan, newish maybe, but it didn't look sporty to me. Still, the motor gave a satisfyingly predatory grumble and the two dress-shirted men in the car gave war-cry whoops each time it did so. I looked over at them, wondering how much fun it can be to tease an engine in traffic. 

I forgot about them, though, when a bus whooshed past stirring up fallen leaves. A whirlwind of copper and gold. 

Somewhere above the woollen cloud cover some passing geese honked their solemn fair-well. I wanted to tell Adrien but also didn't want to cough. And my notebook was tucked away. So I'm telling you instead.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teacup diary entries

I made soup on Monday night. That's how I know summer is over: soup bubbling on the stove. I don't have a recipe to share, it's Whatever Is On Hand soup. Squash, potatoes, carrots, rice. A bit of spice. Quite nice.

Yesterday I went into a Polish bakery. It's just a couple of blocks from the office, and I'd been told it was worth it.

It was. 

I've never been to Poland but I love little shops, like this one, that beam you directly from the sidewalk in Montreal to a counter in Warsaw. Inside it was dark and glittery, lots of wood panels and glowing glass cases. The natural history of pastry.

I waited my turn, after a lanky business man (sausage on a sandwich) and two burly construction workers (cake from the display case).

I just wanted one doughnut, just one little afternoon treat. It's not my fault they had three different kinds: apricot, plum, cream. And also, it would be cruel to get one for me and not bring some home to share. I'm not that cruel. 

So when I said: One of each. 

She said: For only a little bit more you can get six. 

And I said: Two of each!

Is there any softer bite than a freshly made doughnut? I think, next time we meet, I will have powdered sugar on my chin.


On the sidewalk near my building this morning a stylish man greeted me with undue familiarity.

I don't know him. Do I?

"Hi Katherine, how are you?"

He's very friendly but I'm not Katherine.

"Yes, yes, we met just the other day! At your apartment! I'm the new owner, your landlord introduced us."

"I really don't think it was me."

He seems unfazed by my inability to remember him. I'm sure he's confusing me with someone else, even though he knows my apartment number. I remember my landlord picking up the rent check the other day and he was alone. No introductions were made. The stylish man walks off chuckling, wishing me a good day. I walk off, perplexed.


There is a corner in the storage area of the staffroom at the library where all of our Christmas books are kept until the Festive Season begins. The shelf is a mess of red and green spines shoved higgledy-piggledy. Even though today is the 16th of September I lingered.


A Scottish gentleman who is new to the area borrowed the library phone today to contact Bell for a telephone installation. His fluffy grey hair was styled in an unnecessary comb-over and his navy blazer went well with the dinner plate sized spectacles.

His voice was soft, and lightly accented.

"No, I don't have a phone number, that's what I'm telling you. I won't have one until you come set it up for me."

"I'm sorry I can barely hear you..."

"Yes, I have an email address but as I say, I won't have internet at the house until you come set it up."

"No I don't have a phone number yet."

This went on for about thirty minutes, poor guy. The fact that his new home was completely disconnected from any form of telecommunication was apparently beyond comprehension for the customer service agent.

We all shook our heads and gave the patient gentleman grim smiles of encouragement as he battled on.


Some people have such a great deal of presence that they fill any room they enter right up to the ceiling.

Someone like that was here today, working for an hour or so. She's lovely and funny and I like her very much. But she can, as Marilla Cuthbert so aptly put it, talk the hind leg off a mule.

I asked her where she was going on vacation and fifteen minutes later I'd said not a word but she was still telling me about her plans. Shortly after that she segued into her impending surgery.

I'm not sure that she paused the whole time she was here.

As soon as she left we slipped into a comfortable silence that gave way to the distant patter of rain.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr Sensitive Ponytail Man

Perfect moments are rare. When they do happen I get this tingling pins and needles feeling on the back of my head, like someone's been playing with my hair. Often these tiny perfections arrive for no reason whatsoever. Just: there they are. Fleeting delight. 

One of my clearest memories of such a moment occurred in the living room of a guy I dated when I was nineteen. 

It must have been summer, but early or late I don't know. It was dusk though, the windows were open and the breeze was velveteen. There was soft music playing. There were a few people over, chatting, probably sharing a bottle of wine. The room was open, airy, and there was a nice wooden mantel with carvings and lit candles.

"This is what being All Grown Up feels like." Pleasant shiver. Goosebumps.


We met at an Art History class at the local college. A field trip into Vancouver was organized, to visit some galleries. I didn't drive so I ended up getting a ride with him.

I barely remember the exhibits. Something to do with plastering a room with sheet music. Oh, and a thing where the artist went to sleep at a hotel (in cotton pyjamas, possibly with the aid of sleeping pills) and had some friends come along in the night to take him home. The piece consisted of footage of him sleeping in the back of the car; it was quite dark, with just the intermitent street lights to illuminate rain mottling the back window while the whump of windshield wipers and the hum of tires on wet pavement droned on in the background. It was supposed to illicit memories of childhood, those times when your parents took you out somewhere past your bedtime and then drove you home and transfered you from car to bed without waking you.

I remember wearing a long flowy dress with clunky shoes (it was the 90s). We had lunch together and the fact that John Keats featured prominently in our conversation should have been a bit of a warning sign.

Romantic poets notwithstanding, we flirted shamelessly and ultimately decided that it would be fun to get together sometime outside of a school function.

I still lived at home then and when my parents found out that he was in his thirties they were not impressed. They were too smart to make a fuss about it though, knowing that to do so would only add glamour to the situation for me.

He played it very cool. He even gave me a speech about how conflicted he was - I was so young, so innocent, we probably shoudn't be doing this! I fell for it - thus proving myself both young and innocent - and threw myself into the task of appearing thirteen years older than I was.

It must have lasted a whopping three months. Four, tops. These are the things I remember: his short blond ponytail and thick black-rimmed glasses, ridding on a the back of a red motorbike, his love of Ovaltine, a black and white stripped shirt, a picture of him from the 80s with a perm, his funny little dog called Sobria, mysterious weekly meetings pencilled in his day-planner (viewed by me on the sly and never discussed), feeling like a minx and an intimidated kid in equal measures, watching The African Queen at his mom's place, eating out a lot, and that one perfect moment at dusk in his living room.


I knew things were coming to their natural end when we were at his friend's birthday party playing Trivial Pursuit. A question about Gen Xers was put forth and someone at the table pointed to me saying "Well I don't know if we qualify but she sure as hell does."


I found out later on that despite his feigned protestations I was not the first girl he'd dated who was fresh out of high school. I don't think he was a creep though, just a little lost. Hadn't caught up with his age. Now that I'm the same age he was when we met (and being lost myself sometimes) I can understand that a little. 

I don't know why that one memory of sitting in his living room is etched in my mind. It had little, if anything, to do with him. Maybe it was just one of those instances where the picture you form in your mind about How Things Should Look coincides for a split second with How Things Actually Are.Who knows? I still get goosebumps though when, for a fleeting, minuscule little moment I feel like a grown up. It doesn't happen often. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Enemy Wears Yellow

What a magnificent grump I've been of late. 
As one of my good friends pointed out this morning, I've been a bit distant lately. I know I have, it seems to be an inevitability of mine. Sometimes I flow and sometimes, like now, I ebb. I hole up in my shell. I like being tucked away in here, it's quiet and I can think. The only company I seem to crave is Stephen Fry on ye olde ipod. He reads and I slip through the bricks into Diagon Alley. 

One reason for this habit of mine is that I have reverse SAD. Actually, really, it's regular SAD, it's just that I pass most sufferers going in the opposite direction. Summer finds me clumsy with heat stroke while the onset of winter sets my heart ablaze. Whatever else I am, I am certainly a champion hibernator. Despite my urban postal code I act like a country wife of yore and stoke up the oven, kneading and mixing, baking and roasting. I walk around in a haze of cooking smells, wiping away steam from the windows to peer out at the snow. It's wonderful. 

But not in summer. In summer I swelter and slump. I scowl and bite. There's no denying that it brings out the worst in me. 

By the time the copper tones of August slide down the seasonal horizon I am often in a state of nervous exhaustion. So very ready for the leaves to turn, for the advent of frost and apple picking and pumpkins on doorsteps. Temperatures drop from the 30s to the teens and I rejoice, reaching enthusiastically (if prematurely) for scarves and mitts and warm things to drink. 

But then: enter ragweed. 

Just as I start to feel the relief of Fall, just as my eyes shine in anticipation of the wonderfulness that is BackToSchool-Thanksgiving-Halloween-Christmas-NewYearsEve-MyBirthday I am struck back, my (red) eyes now shining with tears. I am reduced to a sneezing mess with an itchy palate. 
What a kick in the teeth allergy season is. I'm not complaining, not really (yes I am). This is still my favourite time of year. This pencil case toting, molasses flavoured month is lovely. But could someone, for the love of kleenex, please do something about the ragweed? 

Sunday, September 5, 2010


These are a few shots that I took but didn't get around to posting for August Break. It was nice to capture so much of the month on camera, something I am often too tired or too scattered to do. Thanks Susannah for inviting us to play along. It was fun to do and I really enjoyed seeing August through the eyes of lots of lovely people as well. 

Around my neighbourhood at dusk: 

At the park: 

 Mr & Mrs Claus?

Around town: