Wednesday, 9 October 2013

About a Bird

The bird is behind the crabapple, to the right of the spruce.

The spruce is sparse of needles and grows crookedly.
Not enough light,
not enough space.

This summer a nest fell from the maple. 

A wonder.

I brought it inside to admire. 
I put it in under a dome of glass.
It became a dead thing
in a museum.
I did that.

I found the bird after lunch, also dead.


The light in autumn is false.
It comes at a slant and casts long shadows that weren’t there in summer.
It makes mirrors of windows.

Birds fly into windows.

These are facts I tell myself.


I dig the hole in the back garden,
behind the crabapple, to the right of the spruce, 
near another bird I buried long ago,
and a baby rabbit found by the back gate in the spring.


The nest is small.
A strip of birch bark spirals down from its tangle of grey twigs.
When I bring it outside, the breeze takes up the strand like a prayer flag.

I lift the bird.
I want to hurry
but I make myself slow.
I feel the still breast.
No frightened, fluttering heart.
I feel the soft yet solid body.
Its oval shape fills my cupped palm. 
I feel its mass.

I look for wounds,
such as a cat might make.
Or a window. 

No blood. One leg awkwardly bent.

What does it mean?

I rest the body into the nest.

The bird would not have lain so.
It would have sat up, tiny legs tucked under its white tummy.

I place the nest into a brown bag.

I need to use the bag.

A temporary buffer between the elements.
Between earth and sky.
Between what flew through today’s cloudless dawn and what lies below.
Between wings that parted the wind and the gravity of a grave.
Do you see?

I put the bag into the hole. I do not pause.

I shovel on the displaced dirt.

The whole is covered.

I put the shovel away.
I walk into the house.
I wash my hands.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Returning and Going Away

This summer, it was back to the cottage we went—at the end of August this year, instead of mid-July.
There were changes, but mostly to us. Time works on the landscape more slowly than it does on humans. Rocks and lake and sky live so much longer. To see the changes time works upon them, we must slow down, approximate the pace of nature.

Humans change quickly. My boy is officially a tween now, and by the time we arrived at the cottage he’d had another year of summer camp under his belt. The camp’s out-trip to Georgian Bay and a canoe-camping weekend with his dad had produced a confident paddler excited to show me his new strength and his ability to sit in the stern and steer. He was no longer a passenger, but a driver.

I am a little bit older, too. And better at Sodoku.

There was a new family of ducks, the ducklings already almost as big as their parents, but that seems right at the end of the season.

They swam together but independently, wide spaces between, not clustered closely for safety and comfort.

The sun rose more southerly in late-August compared to high summer, as it daily shortened its arc across the northern hemisphere.

Each daybreak the sun dazzled me, producing an entirely new, never-to-be-seen-again dawn. It stretched out over rounded hills dark with the silhouettes of white pine and maple and birch, and then beamed at me from across the lake.

This year our visit was timed with August’s Blue Moon. 
Night did not fall but rose like a stage curtain as the moon ascended centrestage, fat and orange on the horizon, then growing whiter and smaller the higher it climbed...

...until, at dawn, it greeted the rising sun. 

The Morning Moon—pale and silent and lonely in the west. 

Our days in this quiet place rushed on as the sun and moon chased each other across the sky.

Our cottage time was coming to an end. As was summer.

I knew that soon we would be back to a city of hard surfaces, and back to school, back to routines. 

The canoe was beached, ready for the boathouse.

Days were hot but mornings were cool and the signs clear: dew clung to newly fallen leaves long after dawn,

and in the Technicolor day, sumachs were singed scarlet and burned against a sky that lied, singing to me of a summer everlasting. 

Before I knew what I was about, I stood in wonderment at my last lakeside sunrise of the summer. It was a gift, I knew, a parting gift. A promise. It said: I am here, I, the sky, the water, the rock and trees and the living mist, I am always here.

And the mist blew from the next cove, shape-shifting, advancing always, but never arriving.

Until finally it was consumed by brilliant blazing fire, the life-giving fire that warms all that’s upon the earth.

Every day that flaming ball rose, whether I slept in or rose with it, worshipped it or rushed on to make coffee, it rose in glory regardless of me. Here in the city, and there, too, the same sun rises.

Later, the car packed, all of our lovely visitors long gone, just me and the tween hovering between this magical place and the trip home, between summer and something else, there was time for one more throw of a toy airplane off the dock.
Will he play with toy planes next year? Probably. You’re never too play...
 to wade into crystal clear waters and rescue a seaplane from an unfortunate landing...

to wonder at what lies below. 

Sometimes, when we look under the surface at just the right time into the just the right spot, we get a glimpse of the life submerged, revealed by a shaft of sun that reaches down and turns the depths into a gold dream.


I am home now. In the city. Sad to have left the cottage behind, but grateful to have been there. And I hold the hope that there will be time again to roast a marshmallow... 
 or maybe two...definitely two...

and to bask again under a fat full moon. A moon that made me wonder, does gravity pull that mysterious orb to us or by some magnetic magic does it pull us, do we gravitate to it? Something that rises in my chest at the sight of the moon tells me the latter is as true as the former. 

There are answers here, in witnessing and participating in the daily natural planetary rhythms. 

I will go back again and again. I must.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


For Zoe, who crossed over yesterday. So many loved you, especially a certain two-legged one, whom you had to leave behind. But now you are with your first human friend, and we are all sure he was waiting for you, and had been longing to feel your soft black velvet fur again and to look into your soulful eyes. It’s good to know you are with him.

You stayed here just long enough to be healed of your traumas. You had been given just the right humans to help you through your sorrows, and you grew into a happy, more confident creature. That’s a good life.

We’ll miss you, Zoe. Don’t forget to come and meet us when we cross over, too.

XO from Auntie Kath


Friday, 28 June 2013

Where Stories Come From

No podcast this week. Instead some ponderings about where stories originate.


When I read about other writer’s childhoods, and about how many took refuge in books, the written word, I have such mixed emotions. Jealousy, shame, hunger, loneliness, envy, sadness. Hard, pointy, sharp feelings.

There weren’t many books in my house when I was a child. There were some; two shelves, to be precise, on a small black bookcase at the end of the hallway, between my parents bedroom and the one my sisters and I shared. Most of the bottom shelf was taken up by a set of thin, illustrated encyclopedias that I could never bring myself to read, but I spent many hours studying the pictures of ancient civilizations.

The sentences in most books seemed to be in a language that my anxious mind could not decode. I could read words, but I couldn’t settle into sentences, couldn’t rest in or even access the thoughts and ideas behind stories. Things inside me were churning, but I didn’t know that then. The churning was my normal, so I never named it churning—it just was what I was.

And so when I retreated, found refuge, which I often did, it was not to books; it was to my imagination. I’d fashion tent houses from a thin bedspread flung across the porch and front steps, clipping the blanket to the black wrought-iron railings with clothespins. One particular old cotton bedspread, the kind with little upraised tufts that I’ve since learned is called chenille, was the best. When the sun shone through it, the world underneath blushed warm, glowing peach.

In winter, stuck indoors, I’d wrap big bath towels around my head. Sometimes the towel was long, blonde hair, like Rapunzel (I did have one book of fairy tales, retold in a friendly way “for modern children”); other times the loopy terrycloth was a high steeple Medieval headdress, which I’d seen in a picture and was captivated by. I’d dance in the living room, carefully balancing the heavy towel so it wouldn’t unravel as I waltzed with an imaginary Disney-style prince in front of the TV where figure skaters leapt and spun and sent blue and white flashes onto the walls of my royal ballroom. Outside the big picture window, snowflakes gathered on the blue spruce and dusk fell.

I did not read for pleasure until a few Nancy Drews, Dorothy Parkers and finally Anne of Green Gables came my way. The latter captivated me. Changed me. But the reading habit did not stick. Occasionally, I’d wander the aisles of the local library, which was a long drive from my house, but the French-speaking librarians were unhelpful, even unfriendly (those were the Rene Levesque days in Quebec) and I was overwhelmed by the choices. I had no clue what to touch and what not to touch. It was scary.

There were no bookstores anywhere that I knew of and no money for books if there had been.
So I came very late to books and that is okay, I think, though it has made for a particularly long and difficult journey to this place I am now, where words are finally a refuge of sorts. All along, I have slowly gathered the tools to understand and to express—or strive to, it’s always striving to understand and express—the complexity of human existence, human emotion. Words are my tools to mine that long childhood and beyond it, too.

Beyond it, I say, because what has surprised me in all of this is that when I write, story threads to which I do not remember being exposed emerge from within—the darker myths and fairy tales, the ancient feminine, the magic, the archetypes. They arrive unbidden, which encourages and truly fascinates me. It leads me to trust the unseen, believe that the stories are there, shared among us all, in a Jungian way, in a collective unconscious that is not contained in any one story or book or body. Stories that connect us, frizzing sparks of electrons speeding along a wire suspended. Words that are more than language, but an ancient rumbling of stars in darkness, light from a long way off that’s also within. 

Perhaps you feel it, too? A feeling that starts a little lower than your anatomical heart, rising from that place, rolling through your chest and catching in your throat, then bubbling up in words that you didn’t know you knew.

Imagine that. I do.