A heartfelt goodbye

“Exotic and heartfelt stories of life in small-town Canada.

Of life in Canada. Period.” -The Toronto Star

I miss his voice. His stories. But most of all I miss his heart. In the local Saturday daily there was an editorial cartoon depicting Stuart McLean with a red maple leaf drawn where his heart would be. He was a Canadian through and through and the depiction of his heart as a maple leaf was probably the best homage to this brilliant and funny and lovely man I have run across.

Best known as the host of the CBC Radio program, The Vinyl Café, he literally took his show on the road and I am honoured to have sat in the audience of one of his Christmas shows about ten years ago. He signed one of my books. (Or, if we are being honest here, one of his books that I bought.) He was shy. I was shy. But he signed one of my books, so I was happy.

He has been described as a national treasure. And a story telling comic, though many of his stories were as poignant as they were funny. According to one of my favorite literary sources, Wikipedia, he was lauded with the facility to celebrate “the decency and dignity of ordinary people” (like you and me). Grace and humour were his tools, and he wielded them with, well… grace and humour.

You can Google Stuart McLean and find out all sorts of things. Like his first name is Andrew. But Andy McLean just doesn’t seem right. Stuart does—it has a ring to it—one of authenticity. Not of course that there is anything wrong with Andy, it is just not how we know him

I could quote any number of newspapers and people who think Stuart is the best thing next to sliced bread. In fact I will, just to show you how loved he was:

According to the Vancouver Sun, he was “Like a tonic for our national ills…as penetrating as the wind on a cold Prairie Day.” I agree with the first part. I have no knowledge of the second part, but if it was in the Vancouver Sun, it must be true.

Or the Halifax News who praised his “slice of life vignettes” as humorous and poignant revelations and simple truths. We all know that “simple truths” are somewhat slippery beings, but Stuart was a master at finding them.

The Ottawa Citizen summed up Stuart in one very telling paragraph that I could not agree with more. I have the book that they are describing, and it mirrors my manifestation of the man perfectly: “Delivered in a simple style, liberally spiced with humour and understanding of what make people tick, “Stories from the Vinyl Café” presents vivid pictures of an assortment of ordinary situations. Witty and warm, the 18 stories in this collection…make easy reading as well as pleasant listening.”

Witty and warm. There are not two better words in the English language to describe this man taken way too soon. Unless of course, you add compassionate, patriotic (but not in a ranting sort of way—but by action), and intelligent.

There is a vast intelligence under the guise of simple story telling. We knew Dave, Stuart’s main Vinyl Cafe character, who was the hapless owner of a record store, and his wise wife Morley, and their two kids. Stuart got inside the mind of his character(s), the thoughts Dave thought are those that many of us have (whether we want to admit it or not).

A Canadian voice, he has not been silenced by death. We have his books. We have his recorded voice. We have our memories….

Good-bye Stuart.

On Another Note

Enjoyed a glass of wine at one of the local wineries on Sunday. Outside. Without a coat on. It is February. A bunch of people were sitting in a semi-circle around an outside brick fireplace. Just a random gathering. We talked, we laughed, we sipped wine. It is just this type of chance get-together and the warm comraderie that makes me happy to live in this county and in my small town. Stuart would be proud.

Published in: on February 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm  Comments (7)  

February: stream of consciousness*

 

 

 

It is February. I thought I would state that unequivocally and upfront so that I do not lose my status as one for the obvious. I have decided this year to just settle on the fact that though this is the shortest month of the year, it really is the longest. It is midwinter, it is going to be cold, and so I am just not going to fight it. And you have to admit it, the snow on the ground is beautiful—white and crisp and sparkly–although tomorrow it will most likely be rained away. I am going to enjoy it for today, the heck with tomorrow. (I believe this is called living in the moment—others may call it denial, but 6 of that, half a dozen of the other.)

Even though I do not have a meteorological degree, I do not depend on a little furry creature to predict when spring will come. Face it, spring is six weeks away, or winter will be at least six weeks longer. It is a great tradition to have the little guy poke his head out and either see his shadow or not, but seriously folks, he is not fooling us. The American guy predicts 6 more weeks of winter, and our little guy predicts six more weeks until spring. The difference is huge. Or non-existent. Depends on which side of the glass half full, half empty school you belong to. Personally, I like the theory that it does not matter whether it is half full or empty—all that matters is that you can fill it up again. (Who says I am not philosophical—these are exactly the little gems you tune in for each week—my wise observations stolen from the Internets.)

How about that Super Bowl—another great February tradition. Went to bed with the Falcons ahead—by a lot. Got up to the Patriots winning. Just goes to show you—never give up hope. Though I do feel sorry for the Atlanta guys—you think you have things wrapped up and then the bow gives way. As Roseanna Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner’s iconic SNL character) used to say: “It’s always something…”

I am a new fan of Lady Gaga. Saw her half-time show on Facebook and was duly impressed. Is it a bird, is it a plane—no it was Super Gaga. (You had to see it). I figure if Tony Bennett likes her, that is good enough for me. (I have just recently become a fan of his too—used to think of him as of my parents’ generation, but as I have gotten older, I have gotten wiser. Cough, cough…)

So, what is the other big news this month of 28 days? (Have you been caught by that new internet questionnaire that asks how many months have 28 days? I have and am so proud of myself for saying all of them. Will not tell you though how long I pondered that question.) I have veered off topic again—something I am wont to do. The other big deal is that Valentine’s Day is coming up. Love or hate it, it is a reality, but in my book, anything that celebrates over priced chocolate and roses worth their weight in gold can’t be all bad. (Or can it? —another existential question with no answer.)

As an older (yet still strikingly immature) married woman, Valentine’s Day does not have the hold on me as it did in my younger dating days. I kind of hated the day sometimes, and loved it other times—but always resented the fact that a stupid holiday could have such an effect on me. I think that manipulative holidays should be outlawed, but hey, that is just my humble opinion.

Valentine’s Day would also have been my youngest older brother John’s 71st birthday. In his memory, I am determined to raise a Manhattan –a drink that was one of his favourites. I have never had one before, but will make the ultimate “sacrifice” in his honour. Also, my nephew Mark is celebrating his 50th on Tuesday the 7th. (Happy Birthday Mark!) I was a mere kid when he was born—just saying’…

Every month has its special days, but I think February is unique in that it celebrates not only sports, family, and love, but furry animal predictions. These celebrations are the cornerstones of our lives—and demarcations of a life well-lived. In that spirit, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day, and may you celebrate it as you see fit.

 

*In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a narrative mode or device that depicts the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. The term was coined by William James in 1890 in his The Principles of Psychology…(Wikipedia)

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 4:32 pm  Comments (11)  

chaos averted

 

I have a function on my laptop that says: “Ask me anything.” On occasion, I use it rather than Google. It does not always provide me with an answer that is exactly what I am looking for but this morning when I asked “What should my column be about this week” I was provided with a number of options—none of which really answered my plea directly, but at least one got my brain-addled creative juices flowing.

What was it you ask? It was a column by Mimi Wuest called “Why I can’t write my column this week…” (Citing my source, it is wisnews.com—the Reedsburg Time Press). Ms. Wuest said that she could not write her column “because life is pretty chaotic right now.” Then she proceeded to write a column about the chaos. The first chaotic reason was that her husband was having knee surgery, and what she was doing in preparation for his recovery at home. The second reason she could not write a column was that she was starting a new semester teaching at College and was spending her time “composing new tortures to inflict” on her students.

I am going to take a page out of Wuest’s book, and tell you why I can’t write my column this week and it has nothing to do with major surgery or coming up with ways to torture people. But it does have to do with chaos. Right now, it seems that we are living in a world of uncertainty, which is not all that unusual, but it is. There seems to be chaos on all sides: from the tragedy in Quebec City at the mosque; the Trump presidency where we are wondering with bated breath where he will go next and what he will do when he gets there; our own Prime Minister’s seemingly innocent tweet about inclusion which may have been ill-timed; the flu epidemic (which I have fallen victim to); and the death of my heroine, Mary Tyler Moore.

There are lots of other things I am not mentioning. Chaos has no beginning and no end. One event may get resolved but another takes its place swiftly and/or simultaneously, giving us little time to recover. The word of the day, the week, the month is overwhelmed. Too much is happening—how do we harness it; how to we deal with it; how do we get past it? The simple answer is: we don’t. We have to find ways to get through it.

In this column, I try not to pass judgement. (Try being the operative word here). You do not really want to hear my political views, which if I am truthful, are rather chaotic themselves. I am at times angry, resigned, puzzled, and on my way to losing hope. Other times I grasp at the straws handed out none too judiciously, and hope is at least a glimmer. So instead of talking about world problems, of which there are plenty, I am going to regale you with my ode to Mary Tyler Moore.

Illustrating the fact that even “a blind squirrel finds a nut” once in a while, I happened upon the Comedy Channel yesterday afternoon while ensconced on my couch vegging out (which is one way to treat the flu) and came across a short marathon of my heroine’s 1970’s program. Seven shows (which may have come from each of the seven seasons the program aired) were shown—the first and last, and from what I can figure out, one for every year in between.

I lay on the couch basking in my luck—many of the programs I had not seen before, but it brought back those late teenage years and early twenties when I thought I had the world by the tail. And the program—though slightly dated by today’s standards, withstood the test of time. She was at once vulnerable and independent, smart but humble, and her comic timing was impeccable. Like Lucille Ball, she was a beautiful woman who was not afraid of humiliation. And that is one of the things I admire most about her and the program—she was not afraid to go there—and she did it with class. Comic class, but class nonetheless.

I was a girl brought up not to see inequality. My parents and my siblings never expressed the thought that I could not do something because I was a girl (except once in high school when my mom told me I could not hit a girl in my class who had pushed me into my locker—I really, really wanted to hit that girl). I came to women’s liberation (as it was called back then) as naturally as a fish to water and I have never struggled with my role in society. Besides my family, I give Mary Tyler Moore the credit for that. Thank you, Mary. That was at least one chaos you helped me avoid.

Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm  Comments (13)  

groundhog.

good advice….

I didn't have my glasses on....

coffee-art-groundhog-day-2016-2
“turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”

~maori proverb

happy groundhog day

and

may your face find the sun.

image credit: angel sarkela-saur

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Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  

Zenku #411

ease—such a wonderful goal

Zen Kettle

Stepping up

the hill angling

for ease

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Published in: on January 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

MORE! (esp. Now)

could not agree more….

Live & Learn

poem-poetry-wall

“A huge print in black and white, ‘More Poetry Is Needed’ sits on the wall of a shopping centre in Swansea, United Kingdom. The wall art greets the city centre goers, allowing them to appreciate the idea that ‘Everybody and everywhere could do with more poetry.'”


Source: Book Mania!

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Published in: on January 25, 2017 at 4:37 pm  Comments (4)  

A Malady of Sorts

 

 

I find myself buying more books now that the library is closed. More expensive than merely borrowing—my addiction to reading has been encouraged by people who gave me gift cards to Chapters for Christmas. To those people, I am ever grateful. The recipient of about $100 in gift cards over the holiday season I was like a kid in a candy shop, and thus have several volumes lined up on the table next to my bed just waiting to be read.

My reading addiction is a true affliction, but one that I do not want healed or resolved or in any way fixed. I am content with this malady of sorts, but it is getting a little out of hand right now, and I have to settle down and try to read one book at a time. My curiosity gets the better of me, and I find myself fully ensconced in several books right now. So much so, that when I pick one up and start reading it where I left off, I sometimes have to reacclimate myself to the story. In order to do this, I find myself reading a couple of pages before I start to get the gist of the story again. It generally does not take long for me to be back in a particular author’s world again.

Since writing the first two paragraphs a couple of days ago, I have managed to finish one of my novels. I finally settled in and committed myself to solely reading “Faithful”, a novel by Alice Hoffman. The book is not one for the faint of heart—it takes the reader on a 10-year ride, taking the main character from a troubled teenager to a woman. Fraught with life challenges, the book proves that no one escapes this life unscathed, but if we are lucky, we get through—and sometimes we overcome our challenges, or at least learn to live with them. What I particularly liked about the novel is that even when it reached what one assumed was its denouement (a fancy word for ending) the book was not over until it was over. There was more, and the more was as satisfactory as the assumed ending. So many authors do not wrap up all the boxes they open in a novel and leave you wondering. Every box was wrapped up and tied with a bow by Hoffman. And yes, I would recommend this book as an exceedingly good read.

I have also started reading another book which challenges my brain cells—and sometimes I do not feel quite up to the challenge. But I am persevering. Called “A Solemn Pleasure”, it is a book of essays by Melissa Pritchard and its very thesis is called “The Art of the Essay”. I have often thought of this column as an essay of sorts, but compared to Pritchard, I am just dabbling. The Foreword should have warned me as to what I was getting into, but instead of being scared off, I took up the challenge to “lean in” and learn what the author was offering. The writer of the Foreword, Bret Anthony Johnston said that “We don’t write despite the suffering in the world. We write because of it.”

He advises the reader of “A Solemn Pleasure” to “notice how often you find yourself leaning toward the pages. I did it so often my neck hurt. In fact, this ache—like each of the powerful essays—is still with me. It’s a reminder. Each time it flares, I remember one of Pritchard’s trenchant (incisive, penetrating—yes, I had to look it up—I love a book that makes me look up words) sentences. No matter which sentence I recall, it translates to the author beckoning. Look here, she’s saying. Come closer. I’ve got something to show you. Something you need to see.”

“It translates to the author beckoning.” What a lovely sentence, but it is the true motivation of all authors worth their salt—they are trying to entertain, to show, to educate, to bring something to light that was in the shadows far too long. I have read five of the essays thus far, and I am proud of myself for sticking with it, for I do have to occasionally look up words, or think more deeply about what she is saying. But sometimes a light goes on, and I remember that life is made up of all sorts of things—it is not about just what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. It is also about things we believe. Faith. And that faith takes far more strength than just experiencing life superficially. Some authors make you delve uncomfortably below the surface. Pritchard is one of “those”.

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 3:33 pm  Comments (7)  

Happiness is…

many of the things that makes David happy, make me happy….

Live & Learn

hug-tree

Fall.
Naps.
Miami.
Spring.
Canada.
M*A*S*H.
Full moon.
Saturdays.
Snow Days.
Hot shower.
Maple trees.
Warm winds.
Orange Jello.
Family Dinner.
Blog followers.
House Finches.
Fleetwood Mac.
Morning Papers.
Haruki Murakami.
Zeke’s waggy tail.
Shiny black shoes.
Anything àla Mode.
Buttered Spaghetti.
Finishing a long run.
CBS Sunday Morning.
Netflix binge watching.
Milk Chocolate with nuts.
Rachel & Eric coming home.

~ DK


Photo: via Hidden Sanctuary

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Published in: on January 19, 2017 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Quite Philosophy 101

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

Credited as one of the founders of Western Philosophy, Socrates was considered an enigmatic figure, known chiefly through the accounts of some of his students—Plato being perhaps one of the most famous. I tell you this as a bit of a primer on Socrates, an introduction if you will from that lauded of all resources, Wik E. Pedia. (I know, I know: I should have more respect for the encyclopedic knowledge of Wikipedia—I apologize, for without it, many of my columns would be barren).

Back to Socrates. I have decided to up my game this week, having made the claim that sometimes I get philosophical in my columns at a New Year’s party after perhaps a sip or two more of wine than I am accustomed to (which means I had two glasses—not one). The gentleman I was talking to assumed I was speaking of the classical philosophers and their wisdom and not TV celebrities and self-taught gurus.

Thus, in order to untarnish my lackadaisical reputation, I am going to quote the learned fellow to prove that we can all benefit from the erudite words of intellects, even if we cannot count ourselves among them.

Socrates died in Athens, Greece in 400 B.C. Married to Xanithippe (whom I have on good authority he called Xani) he had three sons. A quote I ran across attributed to the philosopher tells me that he was not necessarily happily married. He is reputed to have said: “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Hmm. Methinks he was served cold soup and cold shoulder on the night this saying came to light.

He was also a feminist if I am reading the next quote attributed to him correctly. He said that “Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior.” Perhaps I am just seeing what I want to see, and he is being not quite as generous as I would like, but grasping at straws is what I do.

Some of the things he is quoted as saying are in my wheelhouse—or to put it another way—we are sympatico. So, without further ado, I present you with some of Socrates’ selected wise words (my comments will be in brackets):

  1. “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” (Gives us all an excuse).
  2. “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” (So, it is not just me?).
  3. “All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine. (Hope springs eternal—I assume he does not mean self-righteous.)
  4. “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou are in it, continue firm and constant.” (If he were not alive so long ago, I would swear he was talking about the perils of the online world.)
  5. “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.” (No truer words than these at this moment in my life—what I have to complain about is nothing compared to others.)
  6. “Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. (Who can argue with this?)
  7. “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” (And books.)
  8. “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” (Who cannot subscribe to this? Who has not been hurt by false words?)
  9. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Just don’t look TOO closely.)
  10. “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have laboured hard for.” (In other words: read, or is that just my disposition showing?)

I do not pretend that this column will serve as a primer to one of the early philosophers, but I have at least fulfilled a mandate I set for myself to put forth the ideas of a thinker, an academic, a truth-seeker, and yes, a dreamer, who is not invested in how he/she looks, sounds, or acts on TV. Not of course that many of these people do not have worthwhile notions—just wanted to show that my depth outwits my (band)width.

Published in: on January 18, 2017 at 2:04 pm  Comments (6)  

My Wish

 

 

My fervent wish is that we have a kinder, gentler, more heartwarming new year. In a small effort to make my dream come true I am going to share something with you that may make you pause for a moment and wish the same thing. It is in the little things that we do that sometimes tells the bigger story. I saw this on the blog of one of my favourite bloggers, David Kanigan, who has become a good friend I have met only in words. He posts on his blog everyday—and his words, and those he chooses to share of others good words are always inspirational. I hope you find the little tale I am about to share one that will lighten your heart in the dark days of winter. I am not sure of the source but at the end of the story newsflare.com is cited.

Without further ado, prepare to be heart-warmed:

“While feeding my horses on New Year’s morning I noticed a solitary sparrow perched upon the steel fence near the water tank. The tank is heated to keep it from freezing. It is not uncommon for birds to drink from the heated tank. Apparently, this unfortunate bird had gotten its feet wet and, while making its exit, had become frozen to the fence in the prevailing near zero Idaho temperatures. First, I attempted to warm the feet of the frightened bird by pressing my palm against both the fence and the bird’s feet, while also gently restraining the bird’s flapping wings. It then seemed that warming the bird’s feet with my warm breath would bring quicker success. Gentle sideways motion with my thumb brought freedom for the frightened bird and a smile of satisfaction to my face… a delightful way to start a new year.”

I have “gotten” my feet wet many a time, and I have people in my life who have warmed them and helped me become unstuck. And I hope I have returned the favour, or just helped without any thought of reward. That is what a kinder, gentler, heartwarming life is all about—doing the little things that help us face the bigger, unkind, harsh realities of life. And let there be no mistake—there are lots of horrors in the world; and while they cannot all be overcome, they can be overshadowed.

On Another Note: Keeper of the Word

Today on the CBS television show Sunday Morning, Faith Salie provided the viewing audience with her rift on the word “curate” and hypothesized that “nowadays everyone’s a curator of their favourite things”. She does not think that our favourite things deserve to be “curated” and that it is a much over-used word that she wants eradicated from our vocabularies.

She points out that Oprah “curates her favourite things” for the world at large–going through all the new and wonderful things that commercialism offers us, filtering them through her red-framed (somewhat rose-coloured) lenses and presenting them as things we “must have”. If you have followed her lists of favourite things over the years, you know that many of us may find her $100 boxes of candy and $300 Sherpa slippers a bit obscure.

Getting a little off-topic here, and showing you that I may not always have my feet planted firmly on terra firma, I often wonder why no one cares about my list of favourite things. What has Oprah got that I haven’t got? I understand that my platform is much smaller, my venue almost non-existent, and my readership perhaps in the hundreds and not millions but why is her opinion so much more valuable than mine?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: curating. I did not realize this was a thing until today. Salie seemed quite hot under the collar about the subject. She describes the word’s historical roots and what she thinks of as the bastardization of its true meaning. It should be saved and only used when talking of art, or things of historical significance, or quite simply, things of consequence. Apparently, your collection of something does not warrant the use of the word “curate”. Even the Queen of Everything (Oprah) does not have the right to curate. According to Salie, only those true professionals in the loftier worlds of art and artifacts are true curators or “keepers of the guard.”

            Personally, I like to think of myself as being a curator, the definition of which Merriam-Webster says is “one who has the care and superintendence of something especially”. I find it interesting that the dictionary cites other job terms for curator as being a scrivener (scribe), Webster (weaver) and wordsmith. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a wordsmith or “keeper of the word”, thus I guess I can refer to myself as a bona fide curator. Take that Ms. Salie.

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 4:19 pm  Comments (7)