Thursday, June 4, 2015

Moon Child

You are a Moon Child. 
Your presence waxes and wanes.
Today you are in apogee - so far away from me.

You won't be boxed in
by borders and perimeters and square foot space.
You are free
to move, to stretch, to grow, to e x p a n d .

                 You are an old soul
            with a child-like wonder,

a drifter, a dreamer, a doer,

                                                                                        a loner whose never alone.

     Stay in touch with yourself, Moon Child.

Let your wonder and beauty and courage
resonate into the world.

                                                                       Give what you can
                                                                      and take only what you need to. 
                                                                      Make your story a part of the earth's story.

                          Don't look back
                 until it's time to look back.

And then come home 
and shine your lunar light on us,
until the universe calls you back again.

We miss you, 
Moon Child.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Two Bills and a Funeral (short fiction)


      Bill was on his way to a funeral. Given the gleam on his freshly polished Oxfords he was quite sure it couldn't be his own. The shoes hadn't looked this good in a while. Certainly not before January 3rd, the date prescribed to William J. Tavish's last breath according to the obituary in Friday's paper.
     “That's really morbid.” Sandy's reaction had been much like his own but cocooned in a deeper, more visceral sentiment. “Why do you even read the obit page. It's just a constant reminder that you may be next up to bat.”
     She'd looked only because he'd called her over from the kitchen. Her hands dripped soap suds onto the page as she studied the text, mottling the skin tone of Lucille DeGraw in the obituary next door. Lucille now resembled Bill's cousin Murray, a distinctive series of birth marks blotting her complexion.
     Bill lifted the paper, folded into a quarter section, and examined William's image at different angles, different light sources, willing the 2D ink into 3D clarity. The low resolution of the childhood photo, pixelated and over-exposed, testified to a pre-digital era.
     “Could have been me, though, if you look at it. Age 9, 10 maybe.” Bill squinted through the magnifying half-moon of his glasses at the face that shared his name.

     “Oh please. You're over-analyzing.” Sandy spun on a heel and headed back to her sink of dishes. “Why do you suppose they chose a childhood picture? Couldn't they have found something more recent?” She scratched a fingernail at a crusted egg yolk smear, only hours old but too stubborn to dissolve in its Palmolive bath. “Maybe he had no family to speak of.”
     Bill marvelled at Sandy's ability to hold a conversation single-handed; a solitary actress in a multi-character play.
     “It says here he had cancer. People usually stop taking pictures when you're sick. Out of respect, I suppose, or fear of resurrecting someone's worst moments posthumously.”
     Sandy returned to his side, drying her hands vigorously with a tea towel. “He doesn't look anything like you.” She drew in for a first-row-seat inspection. “How old was he, anyway?”
     “Sixty three.”
     She severed her gaze from the newspaper, staring Bill square in the eyes.
     “What year?”
     “October 1951. Same month and year too.”
     “Oh that's just too much.” Sandy stomped back to the kitchen, briskly shoving the damp tea towel into the stove handle. “Put that away before you go all Hitchcock on me.”
     Bill did put it away but not before he'd clipped the obituary from the checker board of In Loving Memories and tacked it to the fridge with Sandy's Keep Calm and Drink Gin magnet. She had since plastered a pink Post-It on top – If you're reading this you're not dead!

     His Google search in the wee hours (while Sandy lay curled up in a dream) revealed little about the dead Tavish. A baby boomer with no cyber-world footprint apart from an online postmortem tribute. An extended search of the name purchased a half hour of peculiar entertainment: an 18th century transgender poet, the founder of an elusive polygamist organization and a drug-impaired hippie with ties to the Grateful Dead.
     Bill checked the calendar again making sure today's numbered block coalesced with the date on the obituary.
     “You sure you don't want to accompany me?” He turned, directing his voice toward the thrum of laundry in motion.
     “I'm sure.” Sandy hollered back, giving the dryer door a thorough slam.
     He didn't blame her, really. Suppose it's an open casket affair. Suppose the man was Bill's plasticized, formaldehyde-augmented doppelganger, his organs poached to prevent him from opening his eyes and stating, “just kidding.” Would Bill's old colleagues or insurance agent show up? Perhaps Aunt Greta in her orange moo moo and lipstick extending way outside the lines, hanging deep into the casket bawling over the nephew whom she'd never paid a moments notice. How would he explain all of this to William's missus? Uh, sorry, they're here for me.
     Well, he'd decided to go. He'd polished his shoes. He'd slip in quietly and sit in the back. Maybe he'd reconsider the black eyeliner Groucho Marx moustache – One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How it got into my pyjamas I'll never know. Yuk, yuk, yuk.
     Bill checked his watch. Still two hours to show time. He trudged to the refrigerator, coaxing the door open for an inventory of its contents. He wasn't hungry, but he was. Reflexively, he felt for a pulse at the carotid to the left of his Adam's apple. A reassuring thump with the cadence of Newton's cradle. Do you get hungry in the afterlife? Would you know if you were? 
     Pulling a bowl of red grapes from the top shelf he withdrew to the kitchen table and popped a cold, round orb into his mouth. He curled his tongue around it then rolled it on his pallet, impressed at how quickly he could alter its temperature. He knew little about dead bodies or ghosts but from what he could surmise (based loosely on documentaries and Patrick Swayze's personification of Demi Moore's other-worldly boyfriend) he was sure they didn't produce any measurable heat.
     “You're still here?” Sandy wandered in with a basket of really white whites, dropping it to the table for a session of linen origami, lining up corners and edges. For her it was a science experiment that required rigorous exactness.
     “Killing some time.” Bill looked up in time to catch her “pulease” expression. “Dying to see me leave?” He tried for a second round but she sighed and walked away, readying the kettle for some alone time.
     He returned to the refrigerator plucking the obituary from its magnet, running his thumb across its cheap pulpy surface. Sandy drew up from behind, circling him with benevolent arms.
     “William John Tavish, stop acting as if one foot is already in the grave. That's some other wife's loss, not mine. I simply refuse to spend our best years worrying that the grim reaper is around the next corner or that this is some sort of sick, divinely-inspired joke.”
     He shuffled around, returning the embrace. She took his hand and nudged him towards a kitchen chair, motioning him to sit.
     “Read it to me again.”
     Bill snatched the reading glasses from his head, dropping them to his nose, and focused on the fine print of the newspaper clipping.
     “William (Bill) Tavish left this world the way he came in, quickly and without complaint...” Bill exchanged a wry smile with Sandy.
     “You see, he's not like you at all.” She brushed fingers along his temple. “You're going to go down fighting, aren't you?”
     Bill winked and turned back to the obituary. “...without complaint after a brief battle with colon cancer. He will be sadly missed by his wife Millie, two daughters, one son and three grandchildren. Bill spent the last thirty-seven years doing what he loved as an employee at a local lumber mill before retiring in 2014. He dreamed of turning his skillful craft into a homespun hobby, creating fine wood crafts for his family and friends. His life ended too soon but he will long be remembered...”
     Sandy placed her fingers lightly atop Bill's lips, bringing to a close the heart-warming eulogy. “I'll let you know when you're dead, I swear.”
     He grasped her hand and kissed the tips of her fingers then stood and checked his wrist for the time.
     “Don't think me a fool, please. I just need to go and see for myself. It's kind of like closure, really. Like letting go of a twin. And then I'll walk away, I promise. I'll step back into the land of the living and finish what the other Bill Tavish didn't have time to.”
     Sandy stood too and gave him a gentle push toward the door. “Be back by dinner or I'll knock you into the next life.”
     “Is that a threat, Mrs. Tavish?” He threw the door open and took a step over the sill. “Cause I'll go down fighting and I'll take you with me.” Throwing her a simulated sucker punch he planted one polished shoe in front of the other and rounded the house, out of sight.
     Sandy closed the door and leaned heavily against its solid-wood frame, eager for an end to the existential crisis.
     Bill returned at 4:20, the whistled rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings warbling from his lips.
     “How was it?” Sandy wrestled a piece of twine around the thighs of a free run hen, its headless carcass testimony to its inability to run fast enough.
     Bill huddled in close, pinching the twine while she secured a knot. “It was a nice funeral. Millie's a lovely lady. Pretty, like you.” He planted a light kiss on her cheek.
     “You spoke to his wife? I thought you were planning to remain anonymous.”
     “I was, but I couldn't help myself. She looked so radiant in spite of her loss. I thought she might like to know that there was someone out there who had so much in common with her late husband. Like an organ donor in a way, you know? Except we don't share organs, we share passport credentials.”
     Sandy grinned, settling the skewered chicken into the counter-top rotisserie.
     “Oh yeah, I picked something up on the way home.” Bill produced an envelope from his pressed suit pocket and waved it in front of her nose.
     “What is it?” She turned to face him, her salmonella-hands in the air as if under arrest.
     “Two tickets to paradise. Me and you, kiddo. Living the dream on the white sands of Honolulu.”
     “But nothing. We only live once and I know how long you've wanted to do this.”
     Sandy laughed, elation radiating from every curve of her face.          “When?”
     “February. Right after my scheduled colonoscopy.”
     “You're incorrigible, William J. Tavish. Thoroughly, unquestionably, hopelessly incorrigible.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In the Wake of Charlie

     Just one week has passed since the fatal shootings of the staff of Charlie Hebdo. A world stood appalled and angry at the blatantly hate-filled event. As we should. And for a moment we all became Charlie.

My Facebook page was awash with startling pictures and videos accompanied with commentary by pundits and trumpeters, sympathizers and haters. My local news stations were rife with commentary of their own, in spite of other (some might say even greater) attrocities going on in other countries. 

Somehow this tragedy felt closer to home. It felt like it affected us all, where we live. Most of us hold very dear the belief that "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the pen" are sacred constitutions that need to be upheld with an unquestioned absolutism. 

The truth is that we gave up the absolute nature of these credos long ago. Hate crime is understood (at least in the developed world) as intolerable. Whether it be neo-Nazi swastikas, KKK literature or bullying on the internet, our words and our writings need to be self-monitored, held up to a human standard where we can all feel safe in spite of our differences. We do not have an unrestricted freedom of speech or the pen and for this I am grateful. 

In the wake of Charlie I did a little research of my own. I'd never heard of Charlie Hebdo or their satirical cartoons. What I found was disturbing. No religion, political party or institution was safe from ridicule or derision in the sketched form. Charlie Hebdo tread where most of us would be afraid to go. And, I suppose, this explains their support. They had the courage to say what many of us only think or share in closed circles. It does, although, teeter on the brink of hate - at least in the eyes of those whose religion, politics or moral standards have been attacked. (Some of you will choose to disagree on this and I respect that). 

I, personally, don't hold to any one religious credo. I abhor the misuse of power like anyone does. I stand firmly against any radical group that takes matters into their own hands by force and I am, often-times, appalled at what's going on in my world. I fear for the loss of our freedoms. But, at the end of the day, I DO believe in RESPECT. 

I may not like what your religion subscribes to but, if it works for you and it doesn't demoralize or kill, I respect that. I may not like the way a country runs their politics but, if human life is respected, I respect that too. 

What appears to be at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo attack was not merely a radicalized dislike of the cartoons by the Muslim community, it was the depiction, or worse yet, the slanderous depiction of their beloved prophet Muhammad. Muslims (or at least the radical ones) believe that ANY depiction of their prophet is immoral due to his sacred nature. At this most of us scoff. Is any man or deity so sacred that he/she cannot be portrayed in a picture? I don't get it, but then I don't have to. I can still respect it. And that is where Charlie Hebdo knowingly and continually crossed a line. 

There is so much more to this story, I know. But I am choosing to address only this one small part because, to me, respect for others' beliefs is integral to real change. I understand that at times there is a need for force. We all agree that Hitler and other tyranical leaders may need to be eliminated by force. They leave us no choice. But I can't help but wonder, if we all demonstrated respect for each other in areas where human safety is not at risk, could we avoid such senseless attacks? 

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword. To many, it is a weapon of threat. The fight began with a pen and was retaliated with guns and like any Hatfields and McKoys tale, it will only escalate out of control until generations down the road they won't even remember its origins - just the hatred.

I am NOT Charlie. Although I don't condone this brutal attack neither will I knowingly disrespect someone's beliefs. It's not the only answer but it's a start. It's a standard that I, as a fellow human being, can uphold. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Journey to Otherwhere (oder Riese Zu Anderem Wo)

Life takes funny twists and turns; convolutions of high-speed spins along unexpected autobahns. Complete disconnects become knit together when family need meets adventure. A big brother with a troublesome back is how one might surprisingly end up here: Dusseldorf, Germany.

Comrades on a medical mission to undo chronic back pain, my brother, my husband, my 81 year old mother and I, headed east in search of relief that Canadian doctors could not promise. We boarded plane, after plane, after flugzeug to end up on the other side of the pond.

Germany, the land where words run together, unabashedly, like the coaches of a runaway bullet train. Take for example schweinefleischschnitzel (pork cutlet), a staple on every menu. Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit), the reason traffic signs stretch over and across 6 lanes of highway. Deutschlanders unapologetically poo-poo hyphens, randomlycompressingsentencesintowordsearchpuzzles, 
space keys surperfluous on the keyboard.

In Germany beer runs through the Rhine. It is the sustenance on which babes are raised, the axis point on which a country revolves. It trickles through their veins into kegs and then steins. There are no pints available here.

Week 1 begins with surgery in a high tech facility virtually devoid of doctors and nurses. We make the trek daily across the small, imaculately-staged suburb of Recklinghausen to bolster the spirits of my brother Gerry (now Garry as Germans don't see the "J" in Gerry).

He's been rebuilt - new discs to replace the old, riveted with titanium bolts.

On the in-between times we traverse the world-renowned German train system, my mother's childhood Germanic upbringing proving useful en route.

One tram, 3 trains and 1 1/2 hours later we arrive where the Rhine greets Dusseldorf.

And we celebrate our accomplishment through the transit maze

over a stein and a heaping plate of rindfleischbraten mit kartoffeln und salat.

Week 2 sees us to Gelsenkirchen for a week of physiotherapy in a posh hotel/physio complex. The Grand Budapest Hotel of kinesiology. Hooked up with all the amenities of fine living the patients make the trek daily through a set of sliding glass doors, across 4 floors of rehab corridors to gymnasiums, swimming pools, massage rooms and every imaginable treatment known to the 21st century. In the evening they gather in the 5 star restaurant for cocktails, sharing stories
(and possibly some really fab painkillers).

Those of us on the outside of all the action need to create our own so we board a bullet train to Amsterdam for a night of hedonistic research. We just need to find out if all the stories are true.

And, yup, they are!

Old Amsterdam is a grand collection of narrow cobblestone streets, canals and tall early 19th century buildings pressed together, teetering with age and screaming with antiquity and charm. 

Bicycles and sneakers are the transportation of choice. Pedestrians and cyclists interplay in a dance on the sidewalks and streets, narrow brushes with handlebars and calamity a way of life.

The night comes alive with hipsters of all ages. 

Returning to Gelsenkirchen we find Gerry in a ready-state to take on a little of Deutschland himself.

And so we skip physio class on the last day for a trip to Cologne and the grand Cathedral, built over a 600 year span and completed in the 1800's.

The limber among us took the daunting 509 step climb to the top of the 157 meter spire by way of narrow winding staircase

sharing a breathless high-five at the summit.

The view of Cologne from the heavenly vantage point was breathtaking.

It was a whirlwind trip with a priceless reward - the promise of painfree living and the hope that golf season come spring will look very different for a big brother who deserves to enjoy life. May you now move forward Gerry and accomplish your ultimate dream - to surpass your golf handicap and play with the "big boys."