Parlour Games

Dedicated to David and Janet–the inspirations for this column:

I have a great parlour game for you to play at your next party. Even if you don’t have a parlour. Today we have living rooms, recreation rooms, dens, and “great rooms”, but we tend not to have the more gentile parlours of yesteryear, where you apparently played civilized games such as the one I am about to describe. According to my muse, David Kanigan of the Live and Learn blog, the Proust questionnaire “has it origins in a game popularized (though not devised) by Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.”. Kind of like Truth or Dare for adults I guess. (Dare I answer the questions truthfully?) Kanigan takes the Questionnaire which consists of 33 Questions. What it reveals about him is that he is an interesting, sometimes quirky, urbane, and kind man who loves gadgets.

I will provide the questions for you in case you want to liven up your next soiree, or just do a little self-reflection (which admittedly, is not all that much fun.) I found it quite interesting that when I tried to answer some of the questions, I did not have any readily available answers (or answers I would like to reveal). Without further ado—here are the questions, and my answers, where I deign to give them in brackets.

What is your favourite journey? (Any trip that takes me to a bookstore or to visit loved ones)
What is your idea of perfect happiness? (That everyone I know is safe and sound)
What is your greatest fear? (Too many to recount)
What is your most marked characteristic? (Shyness)
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? (Impatience)
What is the trait you most deplore in others? (Dishonesty, arrogance)
What is your greatest extravagance? (love books and eating out)
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? (feigned humbleness)
On what occasion do you lie? (mostly to save others; sometimes to save myself; very uncomfortable with lying)
Dislike most about your appearance? (Trying to come to peace about getting older)
Which living person do you most despise? (No good will come from revealing that)
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? (just, really, cool)
What is your greatest regret? (hurting someone)
What or who is the greatest love of your life? (husband, sons, my bigger family, my friends.)
When and where were you happiest? (past: university; present: with family and friends and books)
Which talent would you most like to have? (play the piano, be an artist, be an accountant)
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? (I would give myself the ability to talk in front of a crowd, or even two people)
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? (They would all cook)
What do you consider your greatest achievement? (my kids)
What is your most treasured possession? (great books)
What do your regard as the lowest depth of misery? (that there is suffering of all kinds-disease, poverty, mental illness, war)
Where would you like to live? (with people I love)
What is your favourite occupation? (writer—but I would like to be a rich writer)
What is the quality you most like in a man? (grace)
What is the quality you most like in a woman? (grace)
I define grace as kind, decent, merciful, dignified and honourable.
What do you most value in your friends? (Loyalty)
Who are your favourite writers? (too many to recount)
Who is your favourite hero of fiction? (Thor—not really but he was on TV this morning)
What is it that you most dislike? (domestic chores)
Who are your heroes in real life? (the last Governor General and Queen Elizabeth—because no matter what their flaws are, they personify grace to me)
How would you like to die? (I will copy David’s answer: I wouldn’t)
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? (a better version of myself). David wanted to come back as Bruce Springsteen or a golden retriever.
What is your motto? (This too shall pass)

The good thing about this game is that your answers will in large part depend on the type of day you are having, your present emotional temperature, and what you just watched on TV.

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Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Comments (15)  

Happy Halloween ~ No Matter How You Celebrate…

Okay, the Grinch gave back Christmas—but now he stole Halloween. At least in Bathurst, New Brunswick where the Council of the day is expected to pass new rules governing trick-or-treaters this month. And I thought I was not the merriest of Halloween revelers! Anyone who has read this column knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the festivities, but at least I have not tried to limit them or banish them altogether!

Originally the bylaw was slated to make it illegal for teens over the age of 14 to “parade door-to-door dressed as ghosts and goblins”, with a cut off point of 7:00 p.m. The new rules are a little less rigid. They “forbid anyone older than 16 from trick or treating and extends the curfew to 8:00 p.m.”. Anyone caught with a “facial disguise” in public after curfew, like a zombie mask or witch’s veil, “or anyone over 16 found roaming the streets for treats can be fined up to $200.” So, any adults (which apparently takes in anyone over 16) put away the pillowcases if you reside in Bathurst.

The Deputy Mayor of the city thinks that the whole thing is “silly” and makes several points that the by-law does not address. In an interview with the media (Canadian Press and ultimately a CTV site where I gained my information), Kim Chamberlain called the whole thing “an overreach for city councillors to impose Halloween rules.” She says, and I think quite rightly, that you can “turn out your porch lights if (you) don’t want trick or treaters past a certain hour.” She also made the point that some parents do not get home until 6:00 and would have trouble feeding the kids and getting them into their costumes before the initially proposed 7:00.

City spokesman, Luc Foulem, admits the rules are a bit “kooky” but says that “no one will be running after kids on Halloween.” Which begs the question of “why have the by-law at all”? He said that the reason the bylaw is being considered is that older residents are concerned about “troublemakers”. As someone who unwillingly falls into that category, I do not want to be painted with that brush.

I am not a Halloween fanatic. You will not find any menacing décor at my house other than my little sign that reads “The Witch Is In”, which I do admit sends a message I hope will make the residents of this house, if not tremble in their boots, at least think twice before crossing me. And the fact that I have a witch’s hat and some green and black socks should not make anyone shudder (too much). Halloween is supposed to be fun, and if some us get our jollies from conjuring up our inner darker selves, then so be it. (As long as no damage to heart and soul takes place.)

I was listening to the Lynn Martin Show on AM800 (in Windsor, Ontario) the other day, and she was discussing with callers the “vanilla-izing” (my made-up word, not hers) of Halloween. Lynn asked if there should be an age ban on trick-or-treaters and admitted that she still likes to dress up and go trick or treating. To Lynn, I say, do not go to Bathurst! One of her callers said that she planned all year for Halloween—I am thinking that it is her Christmas in October—and she was quite distressed that her favourite celebration was being messed with.

Apparently different schools and organizations deal with Halloween in a variety of ways—some have tie and scarf day; some orange and black day; and some either banish it altogether, or celebrate it traditionally, with costumes and candy and parties. If I remember correctly, we did not dress up at school for Halloween, but the last period or two of the day in public school was dedicated to a party with refreshments and games. My kids were allowed to dress up early in their school careers, but by the time they reached mid-way through school I believe Halloween was somewhat curtailed.

What I do find particularly menacing at this time of year is not the debate about Halloween but those ominous little chocolate bars. We have already eaten 120 of them and I have to get another supply, but I think I will hold off, both for the benefit of my waistline and the trick or treaters who may show up on the 31st.

No matter how you celebrate Halloween, whether you are a “dark night of the soul” aficionado, or pixie dust is as hard core as you get, enjoy the day. I, myself, can be found on a park bench, reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” precisely at midnight on the festive eve. I will be in the Witch’s hat and robes with my striped stockings on, broom at my side, and Kitty Bob (my multi-coloured cat) dyed (non-permanent, organic) black.

Published in: on October 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Comments (5)  

What About Us?

“What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
Oh, what about love? What about trust?
What about us?”

These words are the bridge or the refrain, if you will of Pink’s latest big hit on her new album “Beautiful Trauma”, which pretty well sums up what life is all about. Now if you are wondering what the bridge is, I will tell you. I took a half a day song writing workshop a few years ago from John and Michele Law and learned two things: the lyrics of a song is poetry in action; and a bridge is “often used to contrast with and prepare for the return of the verse and the chorus.” (Wikipedia)
We all know what a physical (even metaphorical) bridge is. It connects two things and makes them whole. And that is what Pink’s bridge is in her song “What About Us?” She was on Good Morning America this morning and said that she does not like giving a song meaning, because the words speak to each person individually. She said that the song was originally about how the government has let people down, but that a friend of hers thought it bespoke of love. (Obviously not a happy ending to this love story.)
I have had a few more decades on this earth than Pink can claim, and I understand the misgivings, the disappointments, and the loss of trust. But then again, I no longer really expect that the government of any country, state, province, or even municipality has the answers—nor do I depend on them for those answers. Call me a pessimist, but I think I am pragmatic. I think that government officials want to provide the answers, want to do their best for us, and give us what we need. But they cannot. And they cannot for many, many reasons—some good, some bad.
I think that “broken happy ever afters” and “plans that ended in disaster” are part of life, but I am not one of those people who is content to believe that “it is what it is.” Sometimes, yes, we have to accept “what is” but we get to work with it, around it, or through it. I understand that our hands are tied on occasion, but we have to find a way to unknot the “ties that bind”. This may seem foolish, and at times there is no going back— but we have to keep moving forward or we are stuck.
I have been stuck in the muck and mire and have attempted (with varying degrees of success) to pull myself out of certain situations. Some situations are of my own making, but we have all had to contend with situations that we really did not have a hand in, but have to deal with anyway. And that Sucks, with a capital S.
We can look for outside help, after all “no man (or woman) is an island”, but we have to recognize that we cannot always be rescued by someone or something else, at least not on this plane of existence. I am not a big believer in “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” as I am aware that bootstraps can snap. But faith, if you have it, can be a great thing to fall back on. I have a faith in something I cannot see, verify, touch, or avoid questioning, but for some reason I still maintain it.
I have trouble advocating faith in something greater than I am but that does not mean I do not have faith. It is an uneasy coupling. My rational self cannot quite be convinced, but my self that wants to believe, believes. I know there are people who have an undying and unquestioned faith. I am not among your ranks. I am from the “what if” school of thought, not willing to close the door.
How I ended up talking about faith when I started out talking about “bridges” is perhaps cyclical in nature. Bridges are connections, and I guess my imperfect faith is how I stay connected to a beautifully traumatic world. Anyway, I promise to lighten up a bit in my next column. Thanks for listening….

Published in: on October 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm  Comments (3)  

The Elephant in the Room

 

It is all a matter of perspective. Or shining a light on the matter. A Sufi “teaching story” says it all:

“Some Indians kept an elephant in a dark room. Because it was impossible to see
the elephant, those who wanted to know something about this exotic beast had to
feel it with their hands. The first person went into the darkness and felt the elephant’s trunk and announced, This creature is alike a water pipe. The next person felt the elephant’s ear and asserted, No. It is like a giant fan. A third person felt the elephant’s leg and declared, That is not true. This animal resembles a pillar. A fourth person felt the elephant’s back and concluded, Not at all. It’s like a throne.
Different points of view produce different opinions. If someone had brought a candle,they would have all felt like fools.”

           
Whether or not you put any credence into Sufism, it can be simply defined (from my cursory reading of the subject) as an effort to get at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (or was that Perry Mason?) The little parable teaches a lot of things. The first is a rather tongue in cheek interpretation which mirrors my rather pessimistic personal philosophy that life is just a series of humiliations. This is witnessed in the concluding words of the story where “they would have all felt like fools” once the whole animal had been revealed to them. There was a simple solution to their buffoonery (light a candle to reveal the truth) but then we would not have had a “teaching story” would we?

Without my rather cynical take on the story, what it also teaches is that we need all the information available to come to a conversant (as in knowledgeable) conclusion. Paul Harvey, renown radio broadcaster of yesteryear made his bread and butter by telling what he called “The Rest of the Story”. Bold and brash (in order to keep his listeners’ attention) he strived to tell the part of the story that no light had previously shed. Were all his stories true? I will leave that up to you and urban legend, but he had a formula, and it worked.

The elephant, taken in parts, is mistaken for a water pipe, a fan, a pillar, and a throne. This is telling in ways other than the obvious. How many times have parts of your personality been taken by themselves and cast you in a light that you do not recognize? I have come to realize (particularly from being more a reader of Facebook than a participant) that things can get out of hand rather quickly when someone puts their opinion out there and invites others to comment. Some comment in kind; some comment because I am convinced they are bored and want to start some drama; and others get downright nasty. But each comment should not really stand alone. Each individual has a history. They have experienced things that are unique to them. But little of that comes out in the comments.

I find Facebook commentary is a lot like road rage. Road rage seems to come out of nowhere and escalate beyond all reason. A step or two (or in some cases a thousand) back is all it would take to diffuse a situation. So much goes into our reaction to an event—a bad day at work, an insult, a bad break up (are there good break ups?), money problems, and just the every day hassles of living. We are a hodge podge of emotions yet we do not shine a light on all of them. We tend to be oblivious sometimes, and walk in “the darkness”. Now, I know that it is exhausting to take all factors into account—but the realization that the cashier at the counter is not exchanging pleasantries with you is deeper than the fact that he or she is just a jerk.

I will leave you with an interpretation of this “teaching story” by Melissa Pritchard, author of “A Solemn Pleasure”. She believes that the point of the teaching is that “each person in the story, and by extension, each of us, is limited by (our) own experience, (our) own vantage point and perception,” She says that “were a candle or a lamp to be lit, each person would see her own position, its humility, humour and restraint.” Once the whole picture is revealed, you would then understand “the foolishness, or limit, of (your) own fixed opinion.

So, take that candle out from under your bushel (I don’t know about you but whenever we sang This Little Light of Mine at Sunday School, I always thought that hiding your light under a bushel was a fire hazard), and let it light up what is hard to see in the metaphorical dark.

Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm  Comments (3)  

The Park

A few weeks ago I proclaimed myself the Poet Laureate of Kingsville–this column was written to justify my crowning:

 

As the self-appointed Poet Laureate of Kingsville, it is incumbent upon me to write some poetry about Kingsville before my title is taken away. That, along with some encouragement by my Writers’ Group (19 years and holding), I have decided to (try to) entertain you with a little of my prose poetry. It is resplendent (good word, eh?) with memories of our beloved Lakeside Park, a gem back then, a jewel still.

 

The Park

 

We used to run down the stairs

(my sister and I)

near the Pavilion at the park—

There were two sets of steps side by side

That converged at the top–

We would race down, and

I always won ‘cause I was older and my legs were longer.

 

We would walk out on the wooden planks

That made up the boardwalk

That seemed to go halfway into Lake Erie

It really didn’t, but it seemed to…

We would change into our bathing suits at the “Change House”

*After walking over the old stone bridge with lanterns guarding each end

And wade into the lake without fear.

 

There was roller skating at the Pavilion then–

I remember watching from the sidelines,

hiding behind the big stone pillars

The constant breeze from the lake coming in the paned windows,

held open at the top by a rusty hook and eye,

hovering over the screens that were ever on guard,

keeping out the biting bugs and stinging bees.

 

The lake sometimes smelled briny, sometimes of fish, always of adventure

It was warm in the summer, washing away the sand we had collected on our wet bodies

from the white-washed beach,

where we buried our toes in the hot sand to reach the cooler earth.

We loved to feel the sun on our bodies, the water washing away the heat,

And sometimes we stopped to watch the dazzling fairies

as they sparkled across the water.

 

A freighter would sometimes float by,

noiseless because it was so far away

While the buzz of motorboats filled the void.

There was always laughter, voices chattering, babies crying–

Picnic food fixed by attendant moms,

balls and baseball gloves brought by hopeful dads

to play on the open diamond at the bottom of the hill.

 

The rough barked trees were huge then,

sweeping the sky with their leaf laden branches–

And people—there were lots of people:

Dressed for summer–the men in loose white pants and short sleeved shirts

undone to the waist; the women in pastel pedal pushers and sleeveless blouses.

We were all happy: the adults in spite of their worries–

The kids, haphazard in their merriment….

 

There were no thoughts of the future–

Beyond the day in the sun at the park.

 

*(I have a cherished painting of that bridge painted by a local artist, Kevin Lucas, in a place of honour in my living room now.)

The park is called Lakeside Park in Kingsville, Ontario, on Lake Erie.

 

Published in: on July 21, 2017 at 8:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Picnic On!

 

Okay, I saw an ad this morning about buying back to school supplies. This morning was Saturday, July 1st. Canada Day. Two days after the kids got to call it quits for the summer. One day for the teachers. Seriously? No time for summer? I want to lodge a complaint right now—especially because it cuts into that favourite activity of mine and Yogi Bear’s—pick-e-nicks, or as the more serious among us say, picnics.

I like the summer when the weather co-operates—when it is nice and sunny, and you do not feel the temperature on your skin. It is neither too hot or too cold; too cool or too warm; too windy or too rainy. It feels like, well, it feels like nothing. And it is on these “nothing” days that a picnic is just the right summer activity. Of course, I have a book to call on to enhance the experience. My mother did not need a book to pack up the perfect picnic—she knew exactly how to do it, and exactly what to serve. Her fried chicken will live on as one of my favourite memories ever—it was crispy and juicy and quite simply the best fried chicken ever. No other piece of fried fowl will ever compete. I, on the other hand, am somewhat domestically challenged, so of course, I turn to a book for advice and inspiration.

The book is called “The Picnic” by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson. There is no beating about the bush here, the book is named for its subject—with absolutely no pussification (my word for no pussy footing around, in case you were wondering.) I think they chose the simple title for three reasons—it was much shorter than the authors’ names; it does not imply its subject, but conveys it without being too cute; and the illustration on the front of the book is really quite gloriously summery and worth every dollar of the four I paid for it.

The contents of the book are broken into just a few chapters called “From Basket to Blanket”; “Bites”; “Sips”; “Salads”; “Plates”; and “Sweets”. But what really enamoured me with the book was the philosophy laid out in the Preface: “Picnics are a silver bullet for summer entertaining—they take the stress out of parties and leave only the fun…. (and) bringing the party to the park makes it possible to gather any number of people, with less effort than it takes to find a restaurant to accommodate a large group.” But here is my favorite part: “Picnics require a lot less fuss than hosting a party at home…since you can forget about cleaning the house or washing a single dish.”

There are quite a few recipes in the book which I find all well and good, but what I found really fascinating was some of the quirkier advice and hacks. Like the two-page listing of 99 Ways to Use a Mason Jar. Some of the uses were no brainers: utensil caddy, dip dish, shot glass, toothpick holder, olive oil jar, butter keeper, and nut jar. Some were more exotic: caviar cooler, chopstick holder, citrus zest keeper, saltcellar, and mortar. Some were sporty: badminton boundary markers, spin the bottle bottle (a sport of sorts) and firefly catcher. Other uses were more whimsical: charades clue holder, moonshine distillery, message in a bottle bottle, time capsule, and small hat. For the life of me I do not understand how a mason jar can be a small hat. That use has me totally stymied. My favourite use they listed though is hummingbird bath. Really? A hummingbird would use a jar for a bath? Who knew?

They also provide us with the “definitive packing list” which includes all those things that make “you ready to picnic on a moment’s notice”. I come from the “take only what is necessary” school of picnicking. Marnie and Andrea and Jenn (the authors) obviously come from the “be ready for anything” school—which my husband John belongs to when it comes to camping (he takes everything and anything “just in case”—and you would be surprised how many times we have had “just in case” scenarios.) Anyway, I digress.

A picnic to me occurs anytime you have a plate of food and eat it outside. Barbeques, cook-outs, wiener roasts, camping, and even taking your evening meal outside are all under the purvey of picnic. As is picking up a takeout bucket of chicken with all the fixings and finding a picnic table at Point Pelee or Lakeside Park, or even your own backyard. Summertime is for living easy, and what could be easier than having an impromptu picnic on the back porch with your loved ones?

Picnic on!

Published in: on July 5, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Comments (7)  

Happy 150 Canada!

 

 

Canada is the new kid on the block so to speak, but we have charm, manners, and taken up the challenge of celebrating our 150th Birthday with gusto. And quite a few books. One such celebration of Canada in print is “Now You Know Canada: 150 Years of Fascinating Facts” by Doug Lennox. Unfortunately, Doug has passed away and does not get to celebrate Canada’s 150th with us on in this cosmos, but I am sure he will be waving a flag in whatever corner of the ether he happens to inhabit.

First of all, I want to wish all of you a Happy Canada Day and a Happy 150th birthday. In order for you to be just a little more cognisant of this great nation of ours, I am going to share a few facts I found fascinating via all the hard work Mr. Lennox went to in completing his book. I warn you that I did not find all of his facts fascinating—especially since he spent over half of the book talking about sports—from hockey (of course) to basketball (which a Canadian invented) to curling and the Olympics. I am sure that many of you find sports fascinating (as in captivating, interesting, absorbing and enthralling), so, for those of you sports aficionados out there, I share these bits and pieces randomly chosen for your reading pleasure:

“Lacrosse is Canada’s official national sport of summer, while Canada’s official national sport of winter is ice hockey.”

The first Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold in skating as well as having a doll created in her image was Barbara Ann Scott.

Hockey player extraordinaire, Jean Beliveau was offered the post of governor general (which he declined). According to Lennox, he was “one of the greatest hockey players ever to lace on a pair of skates.” Okay, I have completed the required sports portion of this programming. For more read pages 82-191.

A few other fascinating facts you can recite at any barbeques or parties you may attend this coming weekend:

The official motto of Canada is “A Mari usque ad Mare”. For those of you who did not take Latin the phrase means “From Sea to Sea”, taken from Psalm 72:8 – “And he (the King) shall have dominion also from sea to sea…”

Red and White are the colours of Canada not because they gently depict a nation that loves Christmas, but because King George V wanted to honour “the gallant sacrifice made by his Canadian subjects” in the First World War. Red represents the blood they shed, and white represents the bandages associated with their wounds.

The beaver is not our only national animal. So is the Canadian horse. As of 2002 in recognition of the “agricultural traditions and historical origins of the province of Quebec.”

The maple leaf was chosen as “Canada’s national badge” due to a little tour of Canada by the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward Vll). Apparently “native born Canadians voiced their desire for a badge to wear when welcoming the Prince” and since the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh leek, Irish shamrock and French lily were already taken, “the maple leaf was adopted.”

The motto of the RCMP is unfortunately not “We always get our man”. (Poor Dudley Do-Right!) It is “Maintiens le Droit”, French for “Uphold the Right”. Still a good motto, but not quite as catchy.

“Wild Goose Jack”, our own Jack Miner garnered a paragraph in the book, though there was no mention of Kingsville. Lennox gave him his due for unlocking “the mysteries of migration routes” and celebrated the fact that he was presented with the Order of the British Empire in 1943 by King George Vl.

Literary trivia is always a must in my columns. Only two Canadians have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and it is very gratifying that one is a man and one is a woman. Saul Bellow from Quebec won in 1976, and Alice Munroe in 2013. And the bestselling book by a Canadian author? Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, published in 1908. It has sold more than 50 million copies. How much more Canadian can you get than Anne of Green Gables? Too bad she did not play hockey. (Or did she?)

Now, hum a little “O Canada” and wave that flag! We are 150!

Published in: on June 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm  Comments (3)  

silly and serious

This is somewhat “columncentric” and local, but you might still enjoy…..

 

It is Monday morning and time for some silliness to start the week, although I am totally aware that you probably won’t be reading this until mid-week or later. There is always time for silliness. Yesterday I went to a Book Launch at the Woodbridge Farm Writers’ Retreat put on by Grant Munroe and friends and the bookstore, Biblioasis. This is not a news article, so I may be fleeting in my details as I want to get on to the main announcement.

The announcement is predicated by one of the authors/poets at the Launch, Marty Gervais, who is the Poet Laureate of Windsor. A multi-talented guy (I once stalked at the Windsor Bookfest to get him to sign a book of poetry I had purchased), Marty read us some poetry and then an excerpt from his upcoming book, “The Disappeared: Five Days Walking the Five Towns” (of what makes up Windsor now).  It will be published by Biblioasis and out in the fall—and that is just about all I will tell you now as the author, poet, professor, photographer, past newspaperman, and mentor of many has too many accomplishments to list in my precious little space).

What we are going to concentrate on in this column is that he is the Poet Laureate of Windsor. A distinguished title, and one that I will not take away from him (as if I could). But I have decided to be the Poet Laureate of Kingsville, until I am unseated by a proper poet. I told him this and we laughed and laughed. And laughed. But wouldn’t it be cool to have a Poet Laureate in Kingsville? I know that I am self-appointed, and there are many in the area who deserve the title and would not have the audacity to appoint themselves.

I read somewhere that “all poetry is political”. I am here to tell you that is not true—most of my poetry is written, what did my dear youngest son say, “like I was in grade 5”. I tend to write a lot of haiku (which I found out is both the singular and plural of the word by some haughty haiku observers I encountered on my blog—and deleted promptly) as it is a form that I find both attractive and short—though sometimes I do have trouble counting syllables.

Haiku for anyone who does not know (or really care) is a form of poetry which can be quite exacting—but all true haiku does not have to be. I follow the 5-7-5 syllable count because it is something my simple mind can handle—but rather than go into it, if you are interested, you can Google it and find out a myriad of information, most of which I tend to ignore. I also write longer poetry—but none of it is very deep—or if it is, I did not intend it to be.

Anyway—this is a rather long-winded way of telling you that I am the new, first, and only, self proclaimed Poet Laureate. Of Kingsville. If you are real poet and want to take my title away, I will not be offended. I will understand. It will be okay. I will, though, cry a little in my beer. Not my wine, because I do not want it to be sullied by my tears.

Now For the More Serious

I will probably report on this in a bit more detail, but as this is my column and thus opinion, I will merely mention that I had one of the best weekends ever—first at the writers’ workshop run by Governor General award-winning author, Diane Schoemperlen at the Retreat. She has become my new bff. At least in my mind. I loved the workshop based on her memoir “This Is Not my Life”, I love her writing, and she is just a wonderful person. (Am I gushing here?) I would like to point out that the best friend forever moniker is merely a figment of my imagination, but it makes me happy, so who is it hurting?

Second, on Sunday I went to the Lawn Party and Book Launch of Diane’s latest book, “First Things First” (published by Biblioasis). That is also where Marty gave his reading, as well as poet and author D.A. Lockhart. Lockhart was charming and talented, and after I save up my pennies I will be buying some of his works too. (Must win that lottery).

I am now in a very “cultured” mood. And I am so happy that this little town and environs of ours is taking reading, writing, art, and music so seriously now. There are all types of venues on tap for those of us who want to feed our creative selves, and I for one, am thrilled.

Published in: on June 22, 2017 at 7:07 pm  Comments (6)  

Summerphobia

 

“Find out what is wrong with you and fix it”. This is advice my husband is forever giving. It is advice he gives when someone complains about some malady or other and it is always medical in nature. It is, on the surface, good advice. It falls apart for a number of reasons: sometimes people just want to complain; sometimes you can’t fix it; and sometimes people just don’t want advice, no matter how practical and kind-hearted.

I have just found out what is wrong with me, and it is not easily “fixed”. It is called “summerphobia” and I learned about it just this morning from an article by Ellen Himelfarb in the daily newspaper—reprinted from the London Daily Telegraph. I knew though that I suffered from it, but I did not know that it had an “official name”.

Summerphobia, according to Himelfarb, is “a rare but potent form of anxiety that intensifies when social lives heat up and work conversations revolve around holiday plans or the “amazing” barbeque last weekend.” I define it a little more precisely. Summerphobia for me is a dislike of extreme heat and humidity, although I do suffer from the “instability” of summer, when all bets are off, and we are supposed to be carefree, and have fun without a set schedule.

Let us be real here for a minute though. Unless you are filthy rich, or a young kid, summers still need to be regimented to some extent. Most of us still have to work, though we may not feel like it when the sun is shining and the beach is beckoning. We have to put our “big pants” on and be adult about summer. I remember the summers before I started working (babysitting and detassling corn) when I was free to play and read (after I had finished my chores, which mostly involved cleaning my room and dusting). I spent an inordinate amount of time in the backyard in my tree, which once I had climbed, was my refuge for hours. The branches were substantial, and arranged in just the right way for me to stretch out on one branch, while my back was cradled by another.

Even back then I suffered from the effects of “summerphobia” which included time off from school and away from my friends. Himelfarb says that she too suffered from the malaise when she was a kid. She said that “as school ended…I braced myself for the exodus of certainty, routine and friends” and yearned for September and a return to normalcy.

On Facebook, I follow “I Love Autumn” and all their posts about the wonders of fall. It is not news to anyone who knows me that fall is my favorite time of year. I repost or “share” some of the pics and quotes about fall to the chagrin of a couple of my Facebook friends, who think I am just baiting them. And maybe I am. Just a little. But I really do love the fall—the cooler temps, the turning leaves, a return to routine, pumpkins, and yes, there is a bit of magic in the season. It doesn’t hurt that Christmas follows close on its heels.

But I am trying to learn to embrace summer. And when it is not too hot or too humid, it really is not a bad time of year. I am not a complete “summerphobic”. I took the quiz at the end of the article and because most of my answers were (b), I have, according to the results “nothing to worry about, but… could do with relaxing a bit.” And it left me with a bit of cheeky advice: “It’s just a bit of sun.” Those who chose (a) for their answers were prime candidates for summerphobia, but were comforted with the statement that “it’s more common than you think”. Those who answered (c) were summer lovers. Apparently, they buy disposable barbeques and are the first to throw around frisbees; they leave photos around of the beach resort they’ve booked; are overcome with fear of missing out (on fun); and despise the end of summer. They are only made fearful by the words “winter is coming”.

Summerphobia at its worst is the “fear of ambiguity, and the loss of clarity and security”. My advice: It’s just a bit of sun. Enjoy your picnics and barbeques, a little time off, not having to don outerwear, and remember “this too will pass”. And for those of you who love summer—well, you don’t need any advice—just keep that frisbee in the air.

Published in: on June 22, 2017 at 7:03 pm  Comments (5)  

A slothful thought

Saturday morning

Many possibilities

Think I will sleep in

Published in: on June 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm  Comments (4)