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.