Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Friday, December 31, 2010

mist and murmur, hold fast and howl

coming home requires 
attempting to touch down 
with no way to see solid ground below
trusting unseen 
assurances that what has been 
hold fast and howl 
as if this were the last cry to be heard
or the first one
bringing  breath into being
coming home 
 demands nothing more than breathing
for a change
not having to brace against anything 
except the wind's reminder if its insistence on being
coming  home  
mist and murmur
more lovely even than  brightness 
needing neither promises nor shame
sing call caw scree
hovering  between sea and sky
barely discernible from each other
 white and grey 
  sorrow tenderness memory hope
casting out past the furies
telling themselves back into wild 
coming home

Friday, December 24, 2010

always in my thoughts always in my heart

And ever has it been that love knows not its own depths
until the hour of separation.
--Kahlil Gibran
 The Prophet

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whirlpool of torment

You will need some back story to appreciate this one.
Partner and I are learning American Sign Language ( ASL). Many of the folks that I work with need alternative forms of communication and partner is also on the hard of hearing spectrum, so it is a good time to be embarking on this adventure, even though at my tender age ( fifty plus), perceptual motor learning is going to be challenging, no matter what it is and no matter how motivated I am ( and I am quite motivated). One of the culminating assignments was a video of partners enaging in a series of signed dialogues, which would necessarily  include a broad sweep of all the vocabulary from the past 12 weeks of the course. To say that  the instructions were a bit unclear and ambiguous would be an understatement, but we persevered all the same, and our instructor brought in a demo video as a template, so we figured we had it figured out and we proceeded, onwards through the fog. One of the instructions was that the total running time was to be 10 minutes, max. No way, unless us two rank  novices become the flying hands project ( which we didn't!! ). A few other details  to include here would be that a) our whole downstairs was given over to this production, with a backdrop and lights and camera, b) partner cannot memorize to save his ass so we also had tri-fold poster boards filled  with our dialogue in 36 font placed strategically on dining room chairs behind the camera c) the dialogues were preceded by "mandatory"  signing of our name ( hi, my name is.... ) followed by "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs", followed by the numbers 1-100, then addition and subtraction, and concluding with objects and colours ( black coffee, brown chair, red table.... ).
And, remember, we are working towards a 10 minute deadline.
So, we practice and practice  and then do the first video... over 14 minutes; then another 13: 40 something; then another and another. Now our forearms are cramping from the numbers, so we pack it in and pick it up the next day. Next day, we make some adjustments in our scintillating dialogue and  we get it down to 13: 11.... amazing; partner needs to adjust the poster boards since we had to do some re-typing and re-applying, and now he  can't see it quite evenly,  and that's when we decided to use some books to raise and stabilize the posters.  Another detail that you should know is that partner is a supremely over-educated man, one of his areas of study being religion, and we have MANY books on that subject.... thus it was that one such book made its way into one of our stabilizing piles but at a critical juncture slid out and landed on the floor. We had by that time gotten our speed down to 12:20 but the camera did not record.... so, while we wailed and gnashed our teeth, we noticed the title of the book.... yes, indeed " A Whirlpool of Torment". It's obviously a sign. Or at the very least, a theme!
Next take, 12:09. At that point, we said, oh gosh darn, that will do** (or words to that effect).
That's the saga; we handed in the video last Thursday night, still awaiting another sign... ( thumbs up or down!! )
This week's class, our last one, spontaneous storytelling and conversation. I'll keep you posted...
regardless, this has been one of the most intriguing learning experiences of my life... and I am looking forward to continuing. Onwards, through the fog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


funny word, that...
like it's a momentary thing
turns out, it's a tease
or a grand deception
not a moment at all
more like sequences, strung one after the other, lessons from the body 
that feel like practical jokes
and recently, this latest: 
a bladder, that used to be the size of a peanut
is now the size of a lentil
stay tuned...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This is how I know...

This is how I know that I was dirt poor growing up
without a thought that anyone around me
might have it different
early realizing  all that we didn't have
when my father thrust a pillow case into my hands
& told me to pack
we were leaving
 I bawled my eyes out
until my hands shook
sobbing shocked at how little there was to leave behind
& how frightened I was to go

This is how I know that I was cut from tougher cloth
coarse enough to shield me
from barbed wire and broken glass
knowing all the ways a good coat can be more
than just a garment to stop the cold
but also a blanket
a shelter
cloaked, I hunkered down until the storms had blown through
until the trouble and the terror subside

This is how I know that memory is a glorious and risky indulgence
it's not that I'm afraid to be alone with my own thoughts
it's the way that sorrow beckons, reminding me of all
I never want to forget
where I came from

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

some one else's words

Love blooms like crocuses: 
dirty, brave

Antay Bilgutay
from Six Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak
by writers famous and obscure
edited by Smith Magazine

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I thought I heard...

I thought I heard the sound of the moon
pouring silver onto winter's branches
braiding ribbons between thorn and bramble
breathing secrets through the ocean's whispers
I thought I heard the sound of the moon

I though I heard the sound of the moon
holding tears and wishes for tomorrow
flickering through tangled frosted lace
carrying the tender hope of sorrow
I thought  I heard the sound of the moon

Thursday, December 2, 2010


early on
in my (re)discovery of living 
in the world of feelings
I thought happiness was an emotion
I know it is

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm afraid

i'm afraid of so much
more than i'd like
to admit
even owning it
makes me shudder
it's why i work
so hard


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fear Factor

Last Friday, I had a flashback to that television show..... Fear Factor. A show that places willing participants (usually in teams of two)  in humiliating, terrifying and often gross situations. The team that manages to get through the terror and grossness of a given episode then gets to move on to even more imaginative ways to engage in terror and grossness. My flashback was to an episode where the "challenge" was to swallow bull testicles, boiled, I think. It was an effective discriminator.
How is it that I was drawn, implausibly, back to this experience of deep and meaningful revulsion? Perhaps a mention of my context at the time will explain it....
I am at a med lab, getting ready for an upper G.I. series. I 've had one of these before a few years back and the lingering memory of how long it took me to swallow the disgusting stuff that is required so that the techs can take  great pictures of my insides still ... lingers. Back then,  I took me a good half hour to get it all down, with much urging and gagging and puking.... and then three hours to track it through the GI tract and the lab was behind on all the procedures thanks to me. I am here again and in no mood for a repeat performance.  
The cheery perky gal who will bring me into the examination room hands me a warm blue gown, and tells me everything off on top and leave the gown open at the back. Of course. She then returns and ushers me into the inner sanctum where I  meet a guy who could be Herman Munster's twin  brother  who all involved are expected to address as " DR." Ok, then, pecking order established,  Cheeryperky hands me two paper cups, one half filled with little white granules and the other filled to the rim with cold water. Toss the pellets in your mouth and guzzle the  water, get it down as fast as you can, they say in tandem, an unwelcome chorus if  ever there ever was.  I am already wary, but I do it and as soon as the water enters my mouth and touches those vile little pellets, my mouth explodes  with foam, as big and squishy as marshmallows but with the consistency of caulk, the thick icky foamy kind, not the neat fine white line kind, and I have to swallow it .... and all the while I am urging and gagging and almost puking, but I manage to get it down even though gulping and urging and gagging at the same time does strange things to my throat. Then DR invites me to lay down on my right side on the oh so warm and comfortable stainless steel table and another cup of water ( at least it looks like water)  is placed unceremoniously in front of  my face.  Cheeryperky plunks a straw into the mixture.The plunk should have been a clue...Drink this down as fast as you can.... it's the halleluiah chorus again and so I get to it, thinking that this speediness might mean that this awful experience may not have to last three hours this time.... it is sooooo NOT water.... it is gross, a liquid with the consistency and taste of a blend of  petroleum jelly and toothpaste and  I am sucking this through the straw and swallowing it as fast as I can, and the urging and gagging thing is still happening.....  and that's when the flashback hits me, that's when I realize that I could probably swallow those bull testicles... how wonderful that there is a positive transfer for this dubious urging/gagging/ swallowing skill....and then there are a series of X-rays and then I am sitting up and waiting for the good news about getting the hell out of here.....

... glad to have that little med lab adventure done. I  will likely not follow up on the flashback, though. Sometimes, one just has to be realistic about what one is willing to swallow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

....this compelling fiction

let my lightheartedness 
fool you
down deep
builds songs
recover some
hold the hands
carry the load
call the shots
no regrets
only exhausted howling
all day cries
all night

owls offer patient timeless regard
gazing dispassionate
a great and dangerous deception
falling into a darkness of its own
this next breath the next

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Haiku: Rock, Paper, Scissors

silver tongued light gleams 
thrown stone skims smooth crease belies
a swift heavy hand

Sunday, November 7, 2010

.... it's in you to give

This past Friday morning I attended a blood donor clinic at my workplace. I haven't given blood in over a decade, partly because I had some mitigating health issues that kept me out of the blood pool for a number of years and partly because, well, other things kept getting in the way, like work and family and community service priorities..... all this is a nice way for me to say that I replaced it as a priority with other things that became priorities. I am a B positive donor ( please, no opportunistic comments about that..... as futile as this request no doubt is) and previous to my long blood donation sabbatical, was frequently called upon since my blood type is typically less available than other blood types. Long story short, I called in and re-registered myself and am back in the blood pool. I show up at the clinic and my lifelong borderline anemia is above the line ( whoo hoo ! ) and after all the question screens get done,  I then proceed to a comfy reclining chair.  There was a first time donor young guy on the reclining chair next to me and when the nurse unsheathed the needle before that lovely push into my  protruding vein  this young fella says, whoa, that's a really big needle! I had forgotten  how big the needle had looked to me way back  more than thirty years ago when I saw it for the first time. The nurse and I looked at this young guy and said, almost simultaneously, you hardly feel it .... but you'll feel good after!!
I did feel good after. I had also forgotten how fulfilling it is to give in this wonderfully anonymous and physically generous way. I will not be removing myself from the blood pool again. It's good to be back.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


stretches out 
before me, grey & 
shimmering lovely starkness
broken by breeze, leaves & loon
call stars in the offing
leaning back 
is all it takes to begin 
its release from shore
silver beckoning
bowl of twilight

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bumper sticker

Keep honking....

I'm reloading. 

Rage.... some days, I totally get it. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Learning... always learning

We shall not cease from exploration 
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.

T.S Elliot.

Friday, October 15, 2010

week in review

Credo quia absurdum est 

 ( I believe it because it is absurd) 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


... after several weeks of somewhat frustrating glitches and snafus in contexts meant to be respectful, transparent, functional and helpful, I am left with a lingering wonderment about how someone ( i.e., me) can move from place to place, meeting to meeting, this thing to this next thing for much of the work day and cover so little ground.....

thankfully, i find solace in  J.R.R.Tolkien: Not all those who wander are lost.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Vive ut vivas

the past 

author unknown

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

winter's long night

Faith is a bird
that feels
while it is still dark

Scandinavian saying

Monday, September 20, 2010


Madelyn enters the crowded reception area with deceptive stealth and purpose. All of a sudden she is right next to me, a request spilling into the space between us. A small beautiful child hugs her leg; she rests her hand on his little round head. Her other hand touches my arm. We meet each other's eyes.
In a voice barely above a whisper, yet absolutely discernible, she tells me the name of the little boy. Dominic, her next to youngest son. He is at camp for the first time. Her eldest son has been coming for several years and she is ready to entrust me with this one. She has an even younger one at home who is likely going to be a future camper, but it is to the eldest boy that our attention now turns.

Might you ask the student who will be working with Daniel to accompany me to the car and invite him to come in? Madelyn asks this as if it were the most mundane of requests. Her decision to bring in Dominic  without Daniel lets me know that a serious negotiation has already failed and that she will not allow herself the luxury of annoyance or disappointment. Daniel is the priority. His anxiety and pride blend to create this present situation, one where he will not be able to give in  and so will be forced into a default position of depriving himself rather than capitulate. It is a cycle with Daniel and one that he cannot break out of on his own accord. His autism and his anxiety combine to complicate simple events, the complication then becoming a spiral in itself, one with seemingly no way out .... this combination of two intertwined disabilities is often referred to as a "co-morbid" condition. Not a word one hears used unless it is to describe someone whose idiosyncracies  are a tad too ....idiosyncratic. One does not hear about someone who is co-morbid with shopping and driving, or with headache and nausea, or burgers and fries. No, indeed; some terminology is reserved for the best of us.
Madelyn sees the way out. She sees how she is intertwined in Daniel's spiral and is humble and wise enough to get out of the way. He needs to engage with someone who has not witnessed his being caught in his own web and his accompanying shame. He needs it to be simple, again.
Madelyn knows that she cannot even be a witness to his rescue. She steps back. I admire her. I want to tell her so. Her mothering is a dance of stepping back; like a tango, the dance always begins with a backwards step.
I send my student out. I tell her how casual to be with Daniel. No big deal, he just felt like hanging out in the car so his little brother could have some special  attention. Thanks for being such a caring big brother.
Madelyn hands Dominic over to me. I take his little hand and bring him to his group. He is welcomed and fussed over. He smiles and giggles. Madelyn leaves before anyone notices she has gone. Daniel saunters in with his student worker. I give him a glance and a nod. Nice to see you again, buddy, I say.
Nice to be here, he says.

Friday, September 10, 2010


 John Livingston, a naturalist of some acclaim and author of a wonderful book, Rogue Primate, proposes that there are two characteristics or habits that seem to distinguish animals (who co-exist in communities) from humans (who co-exist in communities), these being rationalization and deceit. Apparently, animals do not engage in these distinctly human behaviours. Why do I include this information here, at the beginning of a post that will take up some recent adventures at autism camp? Well, dear reader, perhaps you might consider it a courtesy, a foretaste of what is to follow, an anticipatory set....I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

I believe I've already mentioned that the autism camp I so affectionately write about has been in operation for about 15 years. I believe it would also be fair to say that I am a tad protective of my camp and my campers. It's also unfortunately accurate to say that in spite of my (admittedly anal and compulsive) attentiveness to detail and organization, every year something seems to slip through my grasp.This year was no exception. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that another camp was going on at the same time as mine, that another HUGE event was also taking place on the campus where I hold the morning half days of my camp and that my camp and the other camp would be sharing space. Somehow, this did not translate into my NOT using a gymnasium space that I had counted on in  my schedule rotation. So, when  I arrived a little before 8:00 am on the first day  of camp after having spent the previous day hauling and setting up equipment for my activity and arrival stations, and encounter the other camp's director and his entourage of camp counsellors assembling outside the entrance doors of  MY arrival space,  I was unimpressed. You might even say perturbed. Others on the scene used other words as well..... I think I heard one of the entourage use the phrase Total eFfing Bitch (except he didn't use the word eFfing... if you get my drift).  The Other Guy and I exchanged mature pleasantries that went something like this:
OG: the building manager was supposed to have told you about our camp
me: he did
OG: so why the surprise
me: i'm not surprised about the camp.... i'm surprised about the space that your camp is using ( i am also getting a bit panicky about the 60 plus autistic camp participants and the 60 students who will be arriving ANY TIME NOW  who will NOT have an arrival gym.... not good, not good at all)
OG: i had this space booked already....
me: could you have said anything  that could be more unhelpful than that statement?!
OG: ( slack jaw stare)
me: i don't CARE about that.... what are we going to do now? right this moment!!!
OG: ( slack jaw stare)

[pause.... imagine 60 autistic people spread over a large  arrival space, say the size of a large gymnasium wall; they can arrive and bring their stuff to a designated spot, it will stay there undisturbed while  they can go to the other activity  spaces and begin their large equipment activity, or their fine motor activity or their outdoor activity.. following these activities,  they can return to that large arrival space and use its spacious bottom half (divided by a sound barrier curtain) to engage in games skills activities. the 60 campers are divided into four groups so that no more than 15 people are in an activity space at a time.... perfect for this population... this is now dismantled by the loss of the second gym to the Other Guy's camp. just thinking about it makes me livid]

me: so, my campers, who always get the shit end of the stick, will have to be the ones to do the adjusting ?! my campers who have meltdowns when a back pack is misplaced by a quarter of an inch will be the ones doing the adjusting?!!  [ you can see, i was livid]
OG:  ( clenched jaw terror)
OG's barbie doll counsellor [ ok, that's totally unfair, but did i mention i was livid?] : well, if you like you can see the schedule... right over here on the wall [my schedule is also on numerous surfaces, but never mind; the writing is now on the wall as far as i'm concerned]
me: please do not placate me; in fact, it would probably be a good idea not to speak to me at all for at least the next hour or so.... i shall certainly be verbally abusive [ i wondered at the time about the word "placate" .... my therapist tells me that i ought not to wield  my intellect like a weapon.still, it was out of my mouth before i could stop myself]

upshot:  my camp moved across the hall; we reorganized one space  so that three different types of activity could go on in more or less divided and function -specific  stations and we got it done in the 15 minutes we had before the campers arrived. i was seething and putting considerable energy into not letting it spill over onto my camp counsellors and certainly not my campers. we get the day going and even though the kids are more agitated than i'd like for what i usually am able to achieve at my camp ( so much unavoidable human noise from all of us sharing one big space for at least three of our activity stations), the day goes reasonably well ( but you can check back to the day one blog and see all the goodies that did happen). we have this arrangement for the next day as well, and then have a big trip to a theme park on day three. by day four, we get our other gym back and move things around again. our more vocal and observant campers point out to me that the space is different and don't i realize that this is a stressor for someone with autism.
no shit.
next time, i am going to invite my campers to be my negotiators. why waste this valuable resource ? and who better to make the point? sometimes, ya just gotta let a crisis happen.

btw, pride not being one of my deficits  ( i swallow it with great regularity) i apologized to OG for being a T.F.B.
he accepted.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Triolet Interlude: commemorating birth/day

Love is a habit of heart
weaving its spell over time
holding a flame is its art
love is a habit of heart.
Strange, it begins; doesn't start,
stays at the scene of the crime
love is a habit of heart
weaving its spell over time.

Time is a habit of care
word is a habit of craft
walk on this path if you dare
time is a habit of care.
Trusting with feelings laid bare
tears taste much better when laughed
time is a habit of care
word is a habit of craft.

Care is a habit of word
space is a habit of dance
watching as clear becomes blurred
care is a habit of word.
Solitude's lessons are heard
here, when the heart takes a chance
care is a habit of word
space is a habit of dance.

Heart is a habit of hope
you are a habit of heart
tethered, as if by a rope
heart is a habit of hope.
Climb is a matter of slope,
sweet craves the temper of tart.
Heart is a habit of hope
you are a habit of heart.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Autism Camp 2010: a.k.a. I don't usually learn much on a " good" day

that being said, the past two days have been decent, considering.
Victoria, my oldest camper and by far my most irreverent, had a huge seizure in the pool locker room, giving her head and cheek bone quite the crack against the wall on her way to the floor. she was shocky for awhile after and then consented to being driven back to the home site in a car instead of on the bus... it likely helped that she was driven by two " hunks" ( last week, before camp, she had spoken with me via email and reminded me that i had to have " hunks" ( ie, handsome, young men) at camp for her amusement). all the same, she was in rough shape and i called her mom and dad to be ready for her once we got her back there. later on in the evening, i called and spoke to her dad. i heard victoria yelling in the background: is that her?
her dad: yes, it is
victoria: give me the phone. hi,you. tell me a joke
i comply.
then i ask if she has a bruise on her face
victoria: yes
me: well, we will be painting faces tomorrow for our out-trip, so no-one will notice
victoria: i will be a rat... maybe a princess rat; but a rat for sure. my dad's a rooster and my mom's a pig.
beat.... a pause just long enough for me to catch the code ( chinese astrology, in case you are still wondering...)
me: i'm a monkey
victoria: i shoulda known that!
me: you're some tough ( that's my newfoundland heritage coming out, there)
victoria: t'anks ( that's her making fun of my newfoundland heritage)

what else... our pristine non-pooping record was broken today with a spectacular spray of shit that earned us a shrill whistle blast and an everybody out.... only ten minutes left, so the damage was not as great as it could have been. moral: promises are empty in the presence of warm bubbly water, and so are bowels.

other gems borne of a few not so good days.....
* planning works
* sleepy kids are cranky when mom has to wake them up to get them to camp (hey, it's our job to wear them out, and we pride ourselves in doing just that)
*balloon badminton is fun ( and possible)
* no matter how badly you toss ( drop) a bowling ball, it manages to hit something and knock it down
*when the kid you're working with makes funny noises and/or does strange things, other people look at you

perhaps the " not so good days" are gems in themselves and perhaps this camp is like a river... we never dip our hands into the same water twice

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Autism camp 2010: writing from the inside out

... you need to know up front that i am a deeply damaged person & the mere fact of my survival with/in this world of others is an accomplishment; that, you need to know

you need to know that preferences are baffling and i have no idea what one is and i wouldn't know one if it bit me on the arse and i wish i was not called upon so often to have to know what the damn things are much less express them, and thinking about this all the time is exhausting; this you need to know

you need to know that i don't know what triggers those awful responses i sometimes have and that i don't know when or how those things roll in like thunder clouds and those cracking and crashing sounds i hear might be only mine but i hear them anyway and i feel them too and i am scared shitless and ashamed but i do the things i have to do to get through; that you need to know

... and by the way, you need to know that darkness has a sound and a touch and a temperature; this you need to know

you need to know that some mornings it can take me hours to get dressed because i have to change my clothes so often because they ITCH or they don't feel right or they don't work together or they aren't matching the ways they need to or they are and it still doesn't matter because something could happen later on and what i am wearing will not be what is needed in the time when i should have been wearing something else and i forgot about this thing that was going to happen in this time when i was getting ready earlier and that is what was making it so impossible earlier, so much to consider, so many ways that things can turn out; that you need to know

you need to know that i might have lots of times when i appear to be just like you and that perhaps i am more like you than you know; this you need to know

that is enough for now; so much for this and that

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Autism camp, 2010: day two

When I began this camp back in 1996, the campers of that summer decided on the names of their groups. Four groups, divided roughly by age, anointed themselves Wild Dogs, HellCats, Savage Beasts, and Bloodthirsty Cannibals. I've worked with kids for lots of years and am always delighted at the names they come up with when they are given the liberty to do so. In another life as a gymnastics coach, I remember my youngest, sweetest, daintiest little girls naming themselves Vandals and Cockroaches and so forth. But I digress. I've kept the names over the years and this summer's kids seem to relish them as much as the original kids ( some of whom are still attending!). This summer, the Wild Dogs are my youngest, ages 3-6; the Hellcats are next, ages 7-10/11; the Savage Beasts are next, ages 11-14/15; and the Bloodthirsty Cannibals are the oldest, ages 15 - 26. The original Cannibals had a typically warped- and accurate-Aspergers' sense of humour, and chose the name because of how many biters were in the group.

Today's anecdote comes out of the Hellcats. Two little fellas decided to turn the tables on the wasps who have been ferocious and plentiful this summer and set about to capture one. They proceeded to torture it and then, tiring of toying with it, squashed it under foot and then got down for a closer inspection of its little corpse. Fascinated with how the squishy organs were strewn about, they suddenly announced: its body is dead but its brain is alive. And insisted that anyone passing by drop down to take a CLOSER look at the vibrating brain.... at least they think it's the brain. No matter; these little dudes are developing their necrophiliac tendencies while one of my older gals, a 20 year old who is EXTREMELY tactile aggressive ( read: craves intense sensations) swallowed a wasp. Live. For a gal who takes her time with everything else, she has amazing reflexes where her tactile needs are concerned. And it could be, she takes her responsibilities to her group name seriously.

Hopefully, the wasps have a decent communication system. I 'm betting on my kids.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Autism camp, 2010; Day One

... and at the end of the day, we counted:
five bites
three hair pulls ( one of them an armpit hair... yeowww!)
one errant smooch
two punches
one head butt
one shameless boob grab
one crafty testicle squeeze
four kicks
six beauty tantrums
two spectacular masturbation episodes ( discretely and gently re-directed)
four bloodcurdling shrieks
NO poop in the pool ( whoo hoo !!)

two relaxed bus rides
one totally fun swim
dozens of remarkable conversations
hundreds of memorable interactions
hours of physical activity and play
a thousand moments of wonder and insight
one day of firsts
one hell of a learning experience
62 tired & ( reasonably ) happy campers
60 exhausted and ( reasonably) fulfilled students and helpers
one grateful camp director
nothing we can't handle together
a deep respect for the absurd

onwards, through the fog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The turtlehead

Mario recalls how he had willingly volunteered for this experience. He'd known what he was getting into... at least he'd thought he knew. His first week had been somewhat more difficult than he'd anticipated, but he'd adjusted, realizing that grunt work and dirty work and body work were tasks he didn't think he'd be doing but tasks that everyone was expected to do. So, he did them... he is doing them, and he figured he'd been pulling his weight. In spite of his long term commitments to kids with disabilities, this group was a tough group... high need, messy(especially with food and toileting), loud, uncooperative. The camp director had given him the look last week when he'd mentioned how much work these kids were. Of course they're lots of work, she'd said, they're autistic. I thought you knew that....

well, yes, he'd known that but he hadn't known what that meant, really; that he was going to be wiping noses and bums and helping kids get changed into and out of swimming attire and cleaning up spaces after the kids had blown through them. Thank goodness there were so many girls at camp... they were better at that stuff anyway.
He had decided to work with the older kids; who knew they would be worse than the little ones?! Four other guys were working with this older group, too. Pretty good bunch, Mario had to admit. They'd been around kids like this for years and seemed ok with all the snot and shit and mangled food and odd behaviours and noises... they even seemed to like the kids; they were patient and gentle. Mario remembered how he'd been impressed those first few days of camp.

Today had been a strange day so far. The other fellas had been in high spirits, lots of laughing and back slapping. He felt included today, like the guys were recognizing how hard he had been working, like they knew he had lots to offer; so, here in the boys' change room, he was unnerved by his awareness of his own growing unease. Everyone had been his usual efficient self, helping the kids dry off after swimming, getting the kids' stuff into their backpacks, doing the bathroom checks. So why was he, Mario, here with Jack, a tall, skinny, gawky, goofy 16 year old with a sweet smile and a finger pinch that could ( and, frequently, did ) draw blood? Why was Jack still naked, dripping wet and doing this strange little whiny groan and his own special version of the swirl and twirl dance? Mario suddenly notices he is alone in the change room with Jack. How has this happened? Mario is usually the one filling up the backpacks and getting them outside ready for the bus. Everyone seemed to appreciate this; yet, here he is, alone with Jack. Mario gets Jack dried off and gets going on getting him dressed and outta here. Jack is pawing at him and moving towards the toilets, pulling away from Mario's efforts to get him clothed. Oh, no... Mario is NOT going down the toilet road. Jack's got a pile of Depends and Mario is going to get one on him... right fucking now.
He calls out to his gang. Hey, fellas, I could use some help in here.
Keith, one of the guys, calls back. Sorry, man, we're totally busy out here; what's up?
Mario: Jack's heading for the toilets, he's starting to grunt and squat... I'm just trying to get a Depends on him...
Keith: sounds like he needs to go now, man; I'd say go for it.
Mario: awwww, shit, no... not that...
he grabs Jack around the upper chest. Jack's knees are still in the bent position and Mario's carrying him, kind of, moving randomly.... thinking, saying, over and over again, Shit, this is awful....
He glances down and around. Mario is frantic now. He yells: I'm trying to get him into the stall
Keith: he'll be ok once he gets in there.... he's quick once he gets started
Mario: I can see the turtlehead poking out ( he is screaming, desperate) ...Oh, god!!
he sprints to the stall, carrying Jack by the armpits. Jack is giggling madly, touching Mario's face and looking at him intently. Mario plops Jack down into a seated position on the toilet and steps into the next stall, puking while Jack is pooping.
Keith: stay in there with him, man, you don't want him playing with it....
Mario is horrified. Wipes his face. Dashes back into Jack's stall. Mario's all business now. He stands Jack up, does the paper work, gets him out into the change room, helps him into his clothes, giving soft encouragements, making sure his hair is tidy, wiping his nose.
Mario: put your stuff in the pack, Jack, and we'll get going.
Jack packs up his stuff, holds Mario's arm and they head for the exit just as Keith is hustling back into the corridor.
Keith: you ok?
Mario: I am now
Keith nods and pats Mario on the shoulder. You did good, he says.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fair Warning

so, it's that time of year again..... in a couple of weeks my autism camp that's been running every summer since 1996 is back in all its glory.

last summer I did a little series on some of the characters and events that are so much a part of what makes this experience the funny, sad and human experience that it is; this summer I'd like to give that another go. I realize that autism is not everyone's cup of tea as an interest area, so I will also work at making the stories and descriptions something that can be appreciated as glimpses of what is sweet, poignant and meaningful in the every day, mundane world of summer autism camp.

thanks for reading and here's hoping I can do these kids a bit of justice.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Truism (?)

good work

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the devil is in the details

As the daughter of a mechanic, schooled by my father in his ongoing mantras on the geneology of torque, independent suspension and combustion, I should have known better.
You know that slow, sluggish can't even get the chug finished sound that a car makes when it barely has a hope in hell of starting and then, miraculously, it does start, tentatively... you know the sound I mean? that sound that a sane person pays attention to? I should have known when I heard that sound that the trip was doomed. But, hey, the car started, so who was I to argue with karma like that?

I should have known that even though the car started just fine after I filled it up with gas not a block from my house that this was just a tease, a way to lull me into an even deeper sense of false security. I should have been alerted by the prayers and appeals to any deity who would listen that I was not quite as confident in this mission as I was pretending.

I should have known when I got to the highway outside the city and saw the wait times posted for going over the bridge to the U.S that now is the time to turn around, no harm no foul. It is definitely too late to turn around when one is on the bridge.

I should have known that sitting at a stop and go idle for over 45 minutes on the bridge on a day with 100% humidity and blazing heat would place undue stress on an already diagnosed terminally ill alternator ... and did I mention that this same alternator had been sounding like a vacuum cleaner for about a week or so??

I should have known that even though I made it over the border and got the must have them now items at our US mailbox that the awful sound the car made when it ( finally ) started up again was simply a harbinger of the death throes of an electrical system long since exhausted by time, miles and (apparently) abject stupidity.

I should have known that the 40 minute wait on the way back was the last straw and that the moment when every light on my dash board was flashing was the beginning of the end. The surge of panic I felt was matched only by the adrenalin rush accompanying my mind's eye vision of my pathetic self attempting to steer with my arms wrapped around the airbag ( yes, that light was flashing too....).

I should have known that when the speedometer needle and the odometer needle did a tandem swift last gasp sweep to maximum and then a fall to zero that the next thing I felt would be .... nothing. Nothing. Eerie as hell, feeling the life of a thing go out while one is enclosed in the belly of the beast that is dying.

I should have known that even though the momentum was enough to get me to the side of the road so I could pull over safely, that thanks to the marvels of the car's touch of a button seat adjustment, that no one taller than a dwarf would be able to get into the driver's side of this car if I ever had the good fortune to be rescued.

I should have known that the person on the other end of the line at my C.A.A. 1800 save my ass phone call would have no idea how to describe my location to the fella in the tow truck that they sent to get me, and I should have known that my cell phone would run out of battery juice as soon as my save my ass phone call was made.

so, yeah, I should have known better.

Upshot is, the fella in the tow truck was a mechanic who knew how to keep his eyes peeled for stranded vehicles and he found me after not too long a wait. I had a good book to keep me company, and a cool breeze appeared out of nowhere while I was waiting, and the tow truck had air conditioning and the drive to the shop was painless, one might even say pleasant.

and the moral?
well, the devil is in the details, and you've already read the moral.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

there's a story there.....

and the moral of the story is :
when your car sounds like a vacuum cleaner, DO NOT drive it a distance that will require roadside assistance ... from a tow truck!

( sigh)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Somewhat oblique

seeing the desperate core
of who I am
at the heart of my strangeness
you ask(ed)
would you want to change
( it)
I suppose
I don't
when I am human
I cannot examine myself
as human
a dilemma of finding
to say the (in)between(s)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mindfulness meditation

Sometimes, turmoil is a great teacher. Sometimes.
Sometimes, slowing down and taking a long, hard look is the next right thing. Sometimes.
Sometimes, you just have to be alone with your own thoughts. Sometimes.
Sometimes, you just have to sit there and hurt. Sometimes.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

not seeking, not expecting
can you be present and welcome all things ?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quoting a favourite source

.... to quote a favourite source, and especially so over these past few ( and likely the next few) days, my heart is filled to the brim.
I will dwell with the beautiful now, delight in all its sweet tenderness.
Soon enough, I will write like one possessed.
For now, I will rely on the words of others.

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting without expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

from the Tao te Ching, Verse 10

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sarnath ...

..... the place where the Buddha is said to have given his first teaching, containing the simple message: you have it within you to discover how you should relate to this world; now, let me give you a gentle nudge in that direction.

here, at the conclusion of my first fully online teaching experience, I am reminded why it is that teaching ( and learning, and readiness and willingness to learn) is ( are) important.... the sweet dance of nudging and being nudged.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


here is an image I heard spoken
given to me in story
it has taken hold of my heart

Imagine one of the busiest cities on earth
during rush hour
a horrific accident
everything in its tracks
people gather huddled witnessing
police redirect traffic, bicycles, pedestrians
struggling to maintain composure and the necessary dignity

here is an image I heard spoken
given to me in story

Think about what it might mean
for dwelling
if regard were as deep and plentiful
as Copenhagen's canals.
Boats of all sorts and speeds share
liquid space and time
Swans mingle like citizens, welcomed
for their grace and beauty,
their delicate sustained stepping and gliding and leaning
their steadfast commitments
unfettered, unhurried
in proximity of mate
or young

here is an image
given to me
it has taken hold

A careless driver kills a swan
its soft lifeless form
white against the too black asphalt
its slender beautiful neck
elegantly posed, breathless
its mate hovers, his head a hair's breadth from her
chest feathers, absolutely still
motionless as death
in reverent, silent loyalty
if swans could weep
the terrible grief
of one who is left standing
those attendant kindred souls
might keen and howl
in shameless agony
or hold vigil in hushed, unrequited sorrow

here is an image I heard spoken
it has taken hold of my heart

I tried to offer up this story
too soon
after being locked in
rapt attentiveness
I wept at its re-telling
I could not do justice to its sweetness
or longing
nor can I

here is an image I heard spoken
given to me in story
it has taken hold of my heart

Sunday, July 18, 2010


In the contradiction
lies the hope

Bertoit Brecht

Poetry begins with a lump in the throat

Robert Frost

While all are conditioned to resist sadness
a poet must embrace and be attentive to sadness

R.M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Live life; don't solve it

No clue who offered this as a statement for reflection; but I like it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


falling follows
time for digging
& surfacing
edges beckon
the only way
willingly falling
unhurried gestures
for a thousand and one

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yellow Rose

Her sister finds a secret drawer
filled with lifelines cast
out into depths and birdsong, more
poignant for its sweet, steadfast
audacity. Who knew this shore
was a port where mists might last
beyond this moment's telling for
days, for futures, present, past ...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yesterday I vowed....

yesterday I vowed
I will weed tomorrow
today I weeded
kept my vow
what is being weeded

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


A snail was mugged by two turtles. When the police asked him what happened, he said, "I don't know. It all happened so fast. "

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Four Laws

In the barnstorming days, the county fairs would have as attractions "wing walking" where the sensation seekers of the time ( usually more likely to be women than men!) would voluntarily walk on the two-tiered airplane wings while the plane was in flight.
The story goes that these gals had rules of engagement for anyone who felt the urge; they were passed on to me by a great great grand-daughter. I pass them on to you....
the four laws of wing walking

If you want to get off the ground, you've got to lighten your load.

Do not let go of something unless you've got a hold of something else.

In order to take a step, you've got to spend a terrifying amount of time in mid-air.

Flying isn't the miracle.... landing is.

sounds good to me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

how to be....

how to be a life long learner:
stay hungry
stay humble

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rock and ocean

Newfoundland is a wild island in the north Atlantic. I grew up there, becoming a self in a place that is as harsh and tender as any on earth. Still a work in progress, me and the place of my birth. I've been born a few times, now. Twice on the Rock and at least once here on the mainland. For all its twists and turns and tangles, I would not trade my life. I delight in the now and the next, and I hold close all the memories and wonderings of then, glad for whatever the days might mean, equally grateful for gladness and sadness, the spectrum, nuance and intertwining of space, place, time and relation. Weave, breathe, hope

Finding touchstones in the old-timers' sayings: wherever you go, know where you come from, so you can make your way back.... a witnessing of being as much as time and place. I listen.
I do. I am. I will.

Monday, June 28, 2010


We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us.

Marshall McCluhan
deadly, as usual.

...and he makes me wonder,
if this is so
why might it not be otherwise?

Sunday, June 27, 2010


a shift in breeze
push / back from grass & ground
swaying branches & leaves

when did always & never

who claims the right to say
when is we me
when I could care less
would rather not be
do not realize
paying attention
paying attention

Monday, June 21, 2010


It had to be the April of the year I turned eight. I returned to school with a different body after six months off recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident.

It's a Catholic school of the early 1960's. Prayer, music, choir, diction, posture and Latin in addition to the school subjects regular humans learn. The desk is rough under my legs and textured with scratches, grooves, ridges, ink, wood polish... the very odour of comportment.

Sustained silent reading is one of our privileges for 30 minutes every afternoon. I don't remember the book; I don't remember the time; I don't remember the day. I remember the uncurtained windows, the streaming sun, the shuffle sounds of 30 girls in serge uniforms... and I remember the word: exsanguinate.

The sentence stopped there and went no further; a road falling into a ditch; a rock falling into a well. I am undaunted and I feel that feeling without knowing what it is I am feeling. I am sweating... just a little... and then there is my pounding heart, and a breathlessness I have come to know as the overture to deep engagement--crossing over. I see the pieces moving in slow motion, a rearranging, nuanced and subtle... I feel the click of comprehension... ex: out of; sanguine: blood... of course!! Exsanguinate means: bleed to death ! I catch myself grasping not only meaning, but also how I got there. There is nothing beyond me now... I can move inside a word.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Argument from analogy

A ninety-year-old man went to his physician and said, " My eighteen-year-old wife is expecting a baby."
The physician said, " Let me tell you a story. A man went hunting, but instead of a gun, he picked up an umbrella by mistake. When a bear suddenly charged at the man, he picked up the umbrella, shot the bear, and killed it."
The 90-year-old guy said, " Impossible. Somebody else must have shot the bear."
The physician said, " My point exactly!"

..... this little gem is from a wonderful book: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar... understanding philosophy through jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein.
( Penguin; 2007)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Time for reflection

with a felt sense of waxing and waning, I am given to reflect again and anew on the premises I choose to guide my actions.....

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Tao Te Ching
Entry # 9

Friday, June 11, 2010


The person who chases two chickens
catches neither.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Contact Improv

words write themselves
too easily
when nothing is expected
or required

thus, a simple offering
deep regard
& this

your sweet life
has been
& will be
in ways you can only

Wednesday, June 2, 2010



who/what do
cultural natives have

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Three things....

What three things can never be done?
Forget. Keep silent. Stand alone.

Muriel Rukeyeser
The Book of the Dead

Monday, May 31, 2010

Even then...


your voice

Friday, May 21, 2010

third person

when she stepped back
talk & glory
moved on
without her
pulling a melody
played in a background
more compelling
than silence

when she sees a bench
near the river
twilight flowing
sky & water
longing for kindness
she will choose
sit & watch darkness
gather fragility
lean into story
holding the moment 's sweet

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Graceful visitors
hovering above ground, roots exposed
in any language of certainty
(you) wouldn't stand a chance
singing solo
A cappella sighs
sustained in a generous space
choirs find connections
at the deep bedrock of longing
intertwining rides out the storms

underground, overground
chime down
to murmuring dawn
landscapes awash
with tranquil brown puddles
deep enough for a dozen sparrows
their little brown bodies quickening
into spiky wetness
their water play a frolic of hops, chirps
and fluttering
unguarded vulnerability

Let's watch them for a few minutes, you say
and memory, being the carnal tether that it is,
calls me back to every shared heartbeat
how your strength resides in your unhurried watchfulness
a golden moment testimony
to the resilience of grass,
dandelions and groves
leaning into twilight
when everything has a chance to move

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Without a doubt

without a doubt
my house needs dusting
my widows need cleaning
my floors need scrubbing
my study needs tidying
my garden needs attention

without a doubt
my commitments seem overwhelming
my workdays seem endless
I wonder what it is about "NO"
that is so damn difficult

without a doubt
I love what I do
I'm proud to be teacher
discovering all that
I cannot do
keeps me hungry

without a doubt
it is invisible

without a doubt
I lose
my edge
without a doubt

Friday, May 7, 2010

Problem Solving

One of the great things about my job is that I frequently have opportunities to work in physical environments like gymnasiums and training centres and dance studios, and I frequently have opportunities to teach or facilitate learners in those environments in activities like games, dance, exercise and training, movement education..... it's quite wonderful most of the time. This aspect of my work life requires that I am certified in First Aid and CPR, and so every two or three years I have to re-certify in those competencies, since injury or death is something that all of us in the learning environment want to avoid.
So that's how I've been spending the last couple of days, re-certifying in CPR & First Aid [ this round with the added benefits of additional certifications in AED administration ( that's the layperson's version of sending an electric shock to the heart) and Anaphylaxis rescue] and experiencing the privilege of getting training that can make differences that are, literally, life changing. Scenarios are a big part of this type of training. Participants are given " real life" situations, i.e, simulations that are performed as closely to the actual crisis circumstances as possible, and have to respond with appropriate speed and correctness of decision-making and action.
During the pause before the scenarios began, we all headed to bathrooms for the pee break that necessarily precedes this level of energy expenditure. I was in process of finishing up my business when the person finishing up at the sink exited the bathroom AND TURNED OUT THE LIGHT !!! Now I am in a crisis situation of my own. By way of context I should mention for any boys who might be reading that girls have to take off half their clothes when they pee, and most of the time do it sitting down. Unimaginable, I know, but that's how it goes. That's my physical situation when the lights go out. I have to " feel my way" for the paperwork, the flush work and then had to spend a few minutes of tactile strategizing to figure out how to open the damn door of the cubicle.... is it a slide over latch, is it a turn of a knob.... the things I don't think to memorize when all I am intending to do is pee. Anyway, apparently, I made it out ( unless the phrase " super portable laptop " is going to move to a whole other level of meaning) but I have to confess that I did have to feel my way along the walls to turn ON the lights in order to wash my hands. Who knows what manner of horrific pee germs I left in my wake. Consistent with the tenor of the workshop, though, I did return before leaving at the end of the day and gave the bathroom wall a full antiseptic wipe down.
I suppose the moral of the story might be, by all means, preserve electricity, but please, think before you flick.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Patient Gazebo

My workplace sits atop a steep hill, bounded on two sides by lush forest and gorgeous hiking trails. Deer, gophers, field mice, squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies and all sorts of birds are regular visitors. On midday sanity walkabouts, it's easy to forget that this complex is comprised of over a dozen buildings spanning three city blocks on two sides of a busy highway.
Twice a week I cross the highway to do some facilitation with a group I've been affiliated with on a six month assignment. They are stationed in a quaint, brick house The Workplace has rented on a 10 year lease while it's experiencing its growth without space phase. I frequently hear bullshit about maximizing human and material resources..... but I digress.
On my twice weekly treks I walk through the grounds of the Chronic Care Hospital. I always pass a statue of St. Francis placidly feeding birds. The real birds must sense a kindred spirit because there's bird shit splattered everywhere, but Francis and his feathered friends are pristine. The hospital's residents and staff walk and wheel the pathways, or sit and take in the sun, or the breeze, or the simple pleasure of being out. I nod and smile at the regulars, slowing to give them the right of way. Francis seems to approve: I have not been shat upon in any of my wanderings.
Last week I noticed a small, bronze plaque on the edge of the path opposite the good saint, the words " Patient Gazebo" proclaiming the identity of the structure behind it. I stop moving and gaze at the gazebo, at its pointed roof, its latticed woodwork, its polished benches and twinkling shade. Of course it's patient, I snort to myself, what other options does it have? And in one of those rare flashes of clarity, when two thoughts inhabit the same space, place, time and insight, I realize it's a gazebo for the patients at the hospital, and I laugh at myself, the laughing itself a simultaneous third thought.
I am delightfully aware of all of this as it is happening. It's a sweet and uncanny moment.

I keep walking, yet I am caught by the simple act of being alone with my own thoughts, and I feel a cascade of warm realizings, the inner ripplings of the four or five times I've been absolutely present with my own thoughtfulness
the moments that broke and rebuilt me
the lines I crossed, willingly
the ways I died to be reborn
the things I will never let go of, again

I arrive at Quaint House, deftly dodging the slow, noisy bees. As I enter through the rusty screen doors, I hear Greetings. Time to work.
I'll keep the saint's secrets to myself, for now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

funny stuff from the worlds of teachers and learners

This is the time of year when my teacher friends and colleagues send me all sorts of inadvertent funnies that show up in assignments and exams. Here are a few choice ones from recent reports:

" when I heard we had to do a placement in this course, I was a little spectacle..."

" Aristotle was an ancient Geek whose theories still influence us today..."

" so many decisions about sport in the late 19th century depended on the impotence of public men..."

" Orwell wrote 1984 to warn us about the dangers of computer surveillance and its threatening presence, like a giant octopus spreading its testicles all over the world.."

and, my personal favourite.....

" Queen Mary died after a long and bloody period."

There's hundreds more, but I thought you might enjoy these appetizers.
Learning is fun; teaching is an adventure!

Monday, April 26, 2010


At a time when
so much interaction
is little more than
who can be more
who can draw first
who can land that well- placed

I watch you practice
carefully choosing

your courage
deep and understated
my regard
for all that you are

Existentialist agony strikes ( or balls)

to quote three different baseball umpires ....

I calls 'em as I sees 'em
I calls 'em as they are
They ain't nothing until I calls 'em

life mirrors art mirrors sport??

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to survive in a large institutional setting.....

Once I know
your code
I do not have to pay attention
to your messages*

Friday, April 16, 2010


My parents tell me
I was an old child
I'd suspected as much
having borne the sweet lash
lovingly administered
at the hands of Sister Mary Marquis de Sade
enough to testify to my insouciance
whether I spoke or not
perhaps it explains my ingenious
as an adult

A friend tells me
attentiveness requires forgetfulness
I carry the phase around with me
like a warm, smooth stone
I want to keep it in my pocket
so I can
touch it and feel
its deep, crafty wisdom
literally, a touch stone

were you such a child
an old child
blessed with being
embodying a deceptiveness
that makes for keen, unsparing
remorseless noticing
an inner landscape
of ongoing twilight
where things move authentically
with relatively low risk
and that uncanny longing
for the teeming, pulsing
of everyday life

there's something about you
that leads me to believe
you, too, inhabit this
land of unhurried gestures
calm irreverence
watchful stillness
carry a warm, smooth stone

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


swims under my heart
sings twilight breathes moon spins fire
honors word lives craft

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Conventional wisdom dictates: don't buy groceries when you're feeling hungry. My version of that is don't plan a vacation-- even an outrageous, implausible, imaginative vacation --when you're feeling tired, disabused, old or irrelevant. The possibilities are seductive: the walls of skulls in Paris, Torture Toys R Us, arcades filled with an endless supply of pound the gopher.
Then there's not only the where, but the how. Anywhere I want to go means crossing water. Maybe a boat, maybe a plane. I hate flying and only remember it being tolerable when I was loaded. Transport me-- that would work. There's a destination-the Enterprise, or somewhere it goes. Flying, but kinda not really. Or a boat. I like sleeping on boats and I can't sleep on planes. Too much noise. Too much to keep track of.
Ok, to hell with the how. Where, where. And maybe it's like I said, how I'm feeling tired and old and a bit irrelevant. But I want to go back to Newfie. Back to the Rock. See it all. Slowly. In a car, on a horse, on a trail. I want to sleep. I want clean air and undomesticated people. And water. And honest conversation. I want to talk with children and old people, skipper and the missus. I want to hang out with working class and poor people. I want to eat fish and chips out of a bag. I want to lean into the wind and hide in the fog.
It's my vulnerability, this longing for home. That or beat the shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it.
And since it's home I'm going, maybe I'll go farther home. Maybe I'll head to Ireland, next. Last time I was across the pond and nearby, I missed the chance to go. Too many bombs and too much bullshit. That's next, after Newfie. Ireland. My son's been there and he tells me it's beautiful, and dark, and wild and real. Compelling. I believe him.
So, I'd go. Slowly. In a car, on a horse, on a trail. And I'd talk to children and old people, and hang out with the working class. And sleep. And lean into the wind. And hide in the fog.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Medias Res

" I just can't slice them open when they're looking at me like that!"
Charlene is literally wailing as she backs away, her face red with agitation, shame and crying. I don't remember ever seeing her like this, although I haven't been in this job all that long, so my frame of reference isn't exactly great. Charlene is a short, sturdy barrel of a woman with huge hands and feet and that yellow blond hair that looks like it's fake but it's really hers. She ties it back in a tight bun, all the while sobbing and heaving and cursing.
" I know you can do this" she says to me, "I've heard about where you're from. You do this kind of stuff all the time."
I gaze at her, relieved that she seems calmer now that she's got some distance between her and the task at hand that is totally freaking her out.
" I can't just walk off the floor, Charlene," I say "Someone will have to cover my section and everyone gets so pissed off about any special requests."
"I'll take care of that" she says, " don't fucking move!"
I'm a Newfoundlander, and so I appreciate the creative use of that word as a part of speech other than a verb... or a noun. I'm not going to move.
I lean against the counter's edge, unguarded; everything here in Charlene's space is spotless and sanitized and I like that, given what we do here all day. Charlene moves past me with the heat and energy of a blast furnace, her speed and agility impressive in one so .... robust. Charlene is never in the public eye, her work always done behind the scenes in relative anonymity, which she pretty much demands, so when she makes an appearance "out front," all drama and dash, her white-coat flapping with splendor and glory, the higher ups take notice. I wait for the word from on high, remorselessly drawn into reverie...

never take a job you're not willing to walk away from... so said one of my early mentors. Yes, verily say, I, but have a plan B for all the times when the ideological walkaways are paths to no money or visible prospects. I am pretty good at what I do and I get well paid to do it, when that is what I am actually doing. I've done the walkaway, though, enough that I've developed a string of jobs that can save me in a pinch. I've taught ballroom dance, swimming, fitness classes; I can coach gymnastics and teach guitar, and I'm handy at bar and restaurant work, although in my present incarnation, that kind of work is more risky than it used to be. Regardless... there's no work I won't do, though there's definitely some I'd prefer over others. Anyway, that's how I met Charlene, on one of these " others."

and it's Charlene's roaring at her superiors that brings me back to my here and now; and she's really giving them the gears: " when do I ever get a speck of assistance back here (blah, blah blah, curse, curse) when do I ever ask for anyone to give me a hand with all the shit work I do that no-one else wants to do (curse, curse, blah, blah, blah) all I'm saying is that she can do this and all it's gonna take is for someone to take over her goddamn section for a goddamn hour... and this thing is not going to happen if I have to touch one of those things while it's looking at me, not going to happen, gentlemen, I will walk I swear I will..."
then it gets quiet and I know she will get her way. No one here wants to lose Charlene. I re-organize my utensils and get my gloves ready. I catch the eye of one of my younger colleagues as she swings through the door and lays out her flat hand to me. Ok, she says, hand them over. I 've got your section for an hour. She looks at me ruefully, I guess you have to go and, well, you know...
fine, fine, I say, pulling the edges of my gloves up over my wrists. Charlene blasts back into the huge, gleaming room. She glares at my colleague. You, she says, out!
and you ( that's me, now ) get over here.
Yes, ma'am.
Charlene points to the tray filled with a substance that looks like sheep's brains with bits of garnish thrown in. Is that parsley, I ask her, well aware of all the jokes about how things sometimes look back here. Yes, it's parsley, Charlene says, and I put in a bit of turmeric and lemon pepper as well. Smells nice, don't you think? She smiles at me. I am not sure what to do, or say, or how to respond to this information. You never know when she is messing with you or when she is serious. It does, I agree. What the hell. Live dangerously.
Well, OK then. Here 's the blade. One swift cut , neck to tail... tail, you gotta love her sense of metaphor.... and then split the little sucker open and fill it up with that dressing.
Should I do all the cutting first and then all the stuffing? I ask her, sincerely.
Charlene has that look like she is going to explode or fall against the wall crying. Whatever is faster, she says. So I get to it. I have done this kind of thing before and there is nothing creepy about it. I move with a quiet efficiency and Charlene watches from a respectable distance. I can see her reflection in the shiny, stainless steel doors over my head. I smooth the slick skin together and line the trout up on the baking trays. Today's special, baked stuffed lake trout, saved by acts of boldness and compassion.
I smile at Charlene. How often will this be the special, I ask her.
Just once a season, she says. She pauses, How long are you planning on hanging around here?
I shrug. As long as I need, I suppose.
Well, I don't care.... this one is done. I just hate it when they look at me, she says, again.
They're dead, Charlene, I say. She and I are quiet. She looks over at the impressive array of trays of little stuffed trout corpses. She looks over at me. We look at the clock. 20 minutes left.
I raise an eyebrow and tilt my head toward the oven. She nods. I load. We wait.
She's right; it does smell nice.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rage against the machine

I go to the mall near my house to find an automated teller machine that is located in my own bank. Normally, I do not balk at the fee I pay for having the gall to withdraw money from another bank, but it was Sunday, I had a bit of time, and the grocery store that I needed was also there and so off I go.
So, yes, the machine ate my card. Let's get that piece of inconvenience out of the way right at the outset. However, it was the absurdity of the whole event that bears telling.
I have withdrawn my money and the thing asks me (ok, I know it isn't really asking me anything, but bear with me, here) if I want to do any more banking and yes, I do, I want to update my little passbook, of course, being the anal creature that I am. I hit the yes key and then, I get an internet explorer screen telling me that it cannot complete the transmission of this message and do I want to continue, even though it suggests that I should say no. This is a freakin' bank machine, not my home computer and I am on a key pad, not a key board and how the hell I got to internet explorer from the yes key is a huge mystery to me and no matter what cancel key I hit, nothing is happening. Nothing. My card is inside and I am fuming at an internet explorer screen.
I pull out my cell phone and call the1800 number and Stephen answers. I bring him up to speed on my predicament and he says, well, ma'am, you're going to have to get a new card.
That will have to be tomorrow, I say and then he says, and you 'll have to call your internet provider about that screen.
I'm not at home, Stephen, I say in that tolerant voice that alerts those who know me well to take cover. Listen carefully this time, Stephen,....I am at a mall in front of one of YOUR INSTANT TELLERS !!! and right now some hacker is probably emptying my account.
well, ma'am, you'll still have to get a new card tomorrow.
I am hoping against hope that this call was monitored for customer satisfaction. Not a chance.
I then punch the machine and curse at it. That word, yes. If I'd had a blunt object, I daresay I would have been arrested for destruction of public property.
What is the moral?? ya got me.....
how about always arrive at a bank machine with a crow bar, you never know when you will get the urge...
I am reflecting on that.
Today I got a new card. Yippee.
onwards, through the fog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


such was the lie agreed upon

spouse and I were a loving couple
no one saw the cold silence

spouse was devoted
no one saw the obsessive control

spouse had a sense of humor
no one saw the contempt

this is cruelty: finding the most fragile parts of a self and shaking them
until the only shards left are smaller and even more dismissable
than tears
you couldn't have known what you were seeing
or what was happening
when you watched me almost
tumbling out of the car into a graceless, terrified sprint
past the bees swarming around the garbage bins
nowhere else to run
no way around but through
I 'd arrive sweating
& ashamed
heart pounding
eyes downcast
already detaching
from the gauntlet that awaited me
at the end of the day

when we speak of it, now
its power remains
my eyes are dry
and your eyes are open

Saturday, March 20, 2010


gazing carefully
clear-eyed readiness
calm enough
cold enough
old enough

rustling raises shackles
a welcome caress
shivering with awareness
night falls
dawn breaks
twilight hovers


how do you hunt a fox
the fox will teach you

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

bleed green

I suppose there's no getting away from lineage, pedigree, great- great- great-grandparents, family trees, branches and twigs.... seeds falling, sailing, and taking root, growing wild and as strong as the ground that nurtures them.

.... you'd not know it from my name, but I am Irish and twice cursed/blessed because the Irish blood was forged in a Newfoundland crucible. My credentials are .... well, enviable, I guess: criminals, renegades, rogues, liars, soldiers, thieves... spinners of yarns, sorrowful and sweet; loyal in that way that only hard knocks can make one loyal, and with that fierce tenderness hovering near enough, and deep enough, to keep anyone bold enough to get close a little off balance....

the St. Paddy's day stuff can be cliche and silly and maybe even a bit overblown; yeah, yeah, everyone's Irish or wants to be, at least one day of the year. Still, I have to say, the color of my blood, the rage in my heart and the taste of my tears are reminders of connection, an unforgettable touch that is as real as the feel of your words

and all my words can't tell you how much I love touching back

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


syn(a)esthesia ... my friendly companion
i am wary...
i have not been so permeable in a time
and the wild is as lovely as I remember it

i ride the tides of moon and ocean
no need of a mouth
the words are everywhere

i am waterbug
i am smoke
i am a shy girl in a strange plaid coat
that used to be a blanket

Sunday, March 14, 2010

.... here, there be dragons

Little by little
one walks far

Peruvian Proverb

Friday, March 5, 2010


Rain is the sound of my feelings.
I listen.

I lay in bed and hear its murmur on the roof,
its lash against the window.
I am content to be filled with its music.
I am undone by the flow of its sorrow.
I am pierced by the fury of its rage.
I am soaked.
I am ready to feel.
I listen.

Rain is the sound of my feelings.
I listen.

I raise my face welcoming the first, fat drops
plopping hard enough to make me blink
wet near my eyes slides down my neck
under my clothes
an unhurried acquaintance-making
warm and soft
I do not shiver under its weight
a silver whispering curtain
I walk through it, as if in a dream
the grass and trees are cleaner
my socks are squishing
I stand and let it fall around me
I am surrounded
I am ready to feel
Ready to listen

Rain is the sound of my feelings.
I listen.

I find myself a large, flat rock
and fling myself upon it
a yellow raincoat angel
the sky is impossibly purple
and the wind howls
the sparks crackle
the thunder crashes and clatters
water sizzles all around me
and I am pounded, pulverized, buried
bursting into a pain
so real it makes me whole
I am gasping into this river
pouring into this ocean
cradled into this tide
I am ready to feel
Ready to listen

Rain is the sound of my feelings
I listen

Sunday, February 28, 2010


somebody, kill the committee!
all of them?
all of them...
especially the son of a bitch with the scratchy whisper
that fella
insisting on reminding me
about the turn not taken
the work not done
or done well
as if that were ever possible

and especially also the fleet
& deadly feathered Mercury
doesn't talk much & doesn't have to
hurts with a glance
of screeching steel
murders small birds
to drive the point home
another insisting
I've really let myself go
yielding will kill me
since I am already
exhibiting the cracks and crumbles
perhaps that explains all that

new music

belay that order!
I made the damn thing...
I'll kill it myself

Friday, February 26, 2010

...not the top three, ta la....

... a culprit is indispensible

my former lover has just been promoted to ( ) ...
I'm not going to fill in the blank...
you might figure out
who she is
or worse
you might figure out
who I am
or I might
the thought of her
assurances :
this could be me
if only I could learn to be
more appropriately

Friday, February 19, 2010

Virginity: A Trinity


You said you weren't much of a phone person, that the telephone was not your mode, so I believed you. I kept your messages on my phone so I could hear your voice during those long absences when we did not see each other. So much had happened yet the togethering was still young. That night you called, it was strange and delightful. I found myself telling you about the messages, my wistful longing for your voice. You asked what would I think about you being around more often. I said I'd be happy about that, and then I paused.... it was only fair to warn you about the cancer. It was new. No chance for children. Why would that be a problem, you asked me. I supposed that maybe you'd want to be thinking about children, I said. I supposed that might be a need, I don't know.... I remember floundering. My body doesn't need to get your body pregnant, you said then. Ok, I said back. I believe you.
Pretty good stuff for the phone. Pretty good stuff for a life.... Believing, Togethering... this is what happens next.


Seafood restaurants manage to operate under such absurdly appropriate names. I parked that ancient, ugly Ford Pinto station wagon across the street from The Aquarium ( how original!), the spiffy, nouveau lunch and dinner spot on Duckworth Street where you had landed the food service job. I had told you that I'd be outside waiting for you on your lunch break. It had been a bit of a push getting from the physician's office up on Kenmount Road, but I had gotten there with some time to spare.We were so young, you and I, and you were younger than I . I watched you as you crossed the street. I still remember how my heart would fill my chest, wondering at how dark and beautiful you were, at your effortless grace. You folded yourself into the impossibly small passenger seat of that little yellow Ford, gorgeous in black and white... in anything... or nothing. You held your hands loosely in your lap. I held the wheel and looked at your face in profile. We were breathing and waiting. You did that thing with your face and brow, that question-come on-whaddaya think-tilt and look. So, yes, I'd said, I'm pregnant. My heart was racing. You got very quiet. It's just that this has never happened before, you'd said. No shit, I'd said to myself.... and then you were continuing..... it's always worked out, you know.... you had let your voice trail off, then. I know, I'd said. I know.
You sobbed. It was a sob. I really need you to be strong for me now, you'd said. I can do that, I'd said. Then we were quiet, just looking at each other. It was amazing to me that the lunch hour world was going on as usual on the other side of the windows. Then, I cried, just a little. I'm going to carry this baby, I'd said. You reached over and clasped my hand tightly and you nodded, and smiled, and touched my face. I noticed that your eyes were wet, too.


You are young, yet older than I was the last time I saw you. I have already decided to follow your lead no matter what. I will not move out of our embrace... I will leave the timing and softening of that in your hands. I will simply be present to how you feel in my arms and how I feel in yours. I will not be letting go of you again. I'm so proud of your tenacity, your steadfastness, your honesty and courage. Regardless of the risks, I fear neither disappointment nor kindness. You being here makes me brave enough... good enough.
You being here: a birth of your choosing, borne of wonder(ing). Your poetry calls , a stillness settles, and, reborn into a fierce tenderness, I lean into your words, forgetful of all but this moment. When I notice my single clenched fist, it opens, like a rose.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Punctuation / wetHAIKUdream (ing)

finding an empty
realizing I drank it
all pain is like that

finding: an empty
realizing/ I drank it
all; pain is like that

Finding an empty
realizing. I drank it.
All pain is like that.

finding an empty ....
realizing I drank it
all/ pain is like that

Saturday, February 13, 2010


To: Mr. Rufus Saunders
Elizabeth Avenue Liquors
Churchill Square
St. John's, Newfoundland
Dear Mr. Saunders,
You will find enclosed in this letter a cheque for $820.00. I need to explain why I'm sending this to you. It wasn't always like this for me, being able to send a big cheque in the mail. The last time you saw me I would have been 18 years old, mousy and unremarkable, probably wearing jeans and a gray or brown jacket, something unmemorable, and carrying a purse the size of a gym bag. I probably had half a dozen men's socks in there..... big socks.
That evening, I purchased a bottle of Moody Blue wine. I liked that wine; it was sweet and easy to drink. I saw your name tag and remembered it because it reminded me of Rufus Guinchard, a fiddler I listened to a lot back then. Long dead, Rufus. But you're not. I checked. I tracked you down a few weeks ago because I knew I had to make it right with you, finally.
I shoplifted half a dozen extra bottles that night. Slid them into the big socks so they wouldn't clink off each other in my purse. 2 scotch, 2 rye, a London Dock and a Southern Comfort. I'm paying you back the street value now, plus interest. The first Monday of this month was my 20 years sober dry date, and you are one of my last remaining amends. I was cold as ice that night as I laid down the eight bucks for that Moody Blue. You were rushed and nervous, probably new on the job, probably not much older than I was. I screwed you over like I did with lots of people back then.
I don't need you to thank me and I don't need you to forgive me. I just have to say I'm sorry and mean it. Being a decent person means more to me now than it did then... almost more than anything. So, I'm sorry. And I mean it.
Please accept my kind regards,
Emm Cee.