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Why words?

January 17, 2014

Even though the landscape is familiar, these poems are meditations on the attributes and value of words.

I sat by the lake,
under the hemlock,
flat needles carpeting the ground,
the familiar smell
mingled with close-by cedar.

The wind blew down
from the dry pine ridge,
over the alders below,
bordering the lake.

A lone fir tree towered
on the right,
a lonely sentinel.

We had scrambled up
a short rocky path,
rough steps set
in a pile of boulders,
tossed downhill by the last ice age
and rounded a small bog,
rimmed with hardhack,
blooms turned to brown.

Then over a slight rise in land,
and down to the small lake,
surrounded by rock bluffs
and mountains in the distance.

False box and oceanspray
lined the path,
but when I lay on the mossy ground,
and looked at the sky,

a huckleberry bush
hung over me,
ripe with tiny fruit,
and the sharp spurts of tart juice
wakened my mouth.

Words bring yesterday’s reality
Back to life in the mind
For those of us
Who don’t paint.

Also on words, Email to a Friend 2006 and Before I came to Write  2006.


Poems of nature, life and death, collected

January 15, 2014

I hope this isn’t too redundant, but I have posted links to a few poems from this last year in chronological order, to show how a sense of mortality approaches and recedes, and approaches again, I guess, always. But also, themes of gender reconciliation, of nature and church, of the innocence of being children, of my attachment to my own children, but also of how we make a part of our human journey with ourselves, so we need to be good company to our own self. I can’t weem to get into my former blogger blogs at the moment, so I wanted to post Potholes, and keep track of the other poems here.

I wrote Fully Adam in the summer of 2012.

Then Potholes in September, 2012

The wind blew free
As we gazed across the gorge
To the distant mountainside
Where rigid ranks of fir
And grass brown slopes

We looked down on cone-laden spruce
And rust-stained madrone bleeding into gray
Fingers stretched toward the sky
And the lichen draped skeleton
Of a long dead larch

Rock cathedrals hovered over
Still pools of water
Lying in the hollow
Of the nave

As we picked our way back
Down the needled path
The bitter scent of bracken
Filled the air

And we stepped aside
To avoid the fresh bear scat.

Then I wrote Last Christmas, 2012

Then Children Playing in the summer of 2013 in hospital.

And recently The Beech Wood, winter 2013


What’s in a word?

January 15, 2014

So here is one thing that I have been thinking over. “Everlasting,” and “forever” have the same meaning as “eternal,” but they lack an association with an abstract noun, so they are limited in transferring to a philosophical discussion of “eternity.” In Hebrew, the adjective often is the noun itself, in a form bound to another noun. So, no problem, the adjective is a noun. But in English, some adjectives dead end. For example, “beauty” leads to “beautiful” but “handsome” leads only to “handsomeness.” Therefore, it is thought that women possess a quality of “beauty” that men don’t, and men don’t have a comparable quality. They have “other” qualities. But historically, it has been important that men be beautiful. Look at David, in Florence, for example. Look at David in the Bible. He was beautiful, as was Joseph, also Saul, and David’s favourite son, Absolom, who was the most beautiful of all men in Israel.

So, does it matter if we use “eternal” rather than “everlasting” for God? Does it help us extend our thinking? How important is it the word we use is connected to a wider network of words that helps to develop the idea. Does this matter in Bible translation and do translators ever consider this?

The Eternal One in The Voice

January 15, 2014

The Voice is one version, at least, in English that uses “Eternal” for God. I think someone has mentioned others. I forget. Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 3.05.29 PM

Transcendence and Immanence

January 12, 2014

Some of the things that I have been blogging about this fall are the trinity, and really trying to understand Augustine’s Book on the topic. I find the current teaching on the trinity to be very upsetting. I always hear it like this. “God sent his Son to do his will, to redeem humanity by dying on the cross, and blah, blah, blah, etc., this is a model for the marriage relationship, for how husbands should treat their wives.” That is how it sounds. So Augustine is quite a relief to me. Augustine makes it clear that there is no difference in authority between Father and Son, nor is the trinity a model for human relationships.

Second, blogging about the Eternal One, as in Adon Olam , has finally made the meanings of “transcendent” and “immanent,” relating to God, sink in. God is the one who existed before the material universe and will exist afterword. God is outside of matter, and all that is mortal. God is also supposed to be “present with us.” This is what Rosenzweig wrote in the early decades of this century. What does that mean, given the holocaust? This is the dialogue I am having with theology this fall.


January 9, 2014

It makes me happy to write about things that I have seen and felt. So even though I thought of this as one of the last few weeks of my life, I felt happy when I wrote this last July,

I am looking out my window
at the mountain now
That we climbed last fall
To train for further climbs we said
But we didn’t really know.

From the summit
we gazed down
On straits and islands
To the west
On city to the south

And to the north
The serried ranks
Of mauve tinted peaks
Reached to infinity.

We lay spreadeagled
on the soft sand table
The very topmost leaf of land
From which everywhere
Is down

And the ravens dipped
Out of the wild blue sky
And the thrumming beat
of their broad wings
Echoed through our bones
And their black serrated spans
pinned us to the earth

Then we hurried down
Heels digging in the gravel
And promised to each other
That we would return next summer

With pencils and paper,
Sketchpad and notebook
And a day’s worth of food and water

But we never did.


The mountain came to me
And I lay myself down
Face to the moss carpet
That edges the creeks
You cross as you ascend

This is the return
To the earth before Adam and Eve
When we were children playing
In the land before time
I see the children playing

Throwing yourself at nature

January 8, 2014

I know how fortunate I am, and how I have so much more to be thankful for than most people. I have a husband and a lovely house, and two loving young adult children. My cup is overflowing.

But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, I have spent much of my life alone. As a child, I played alone everyday after school, down in the ravine, in the marshes and bulrushes, among the muskrat and red-wing blackbirds. As an adult, I lived near a forest, almost always, and snowshoed alone in the winter, and hiked in the summer. I always had a large dog, so even in Vancouver, I would walk alone in the woods, every day for years.

The last 6 years, I have been not only alone but also single, and working with other single women friends. When the talk came around to internet dating and other ways to meet men, I was always interested, but skeptical and ultimately decided that it was undignified to simply throw oneself at a potential date or mate.

But one can always throw oneself at nature. That is allowed. So, I asked another single woman friend to become my hiking buddy, and we climbed the four North Shore Mountains last autumn. We climbed with gusto, but not with finesse. The first climb, we made it to the intermediate lookouts, and rounded the mountain, through the swamp and up the backside, clambering over roots and grabbing low branches, when we realized that the steady traffic that had been coming down in the opposite direction from us had stopped, and we were alone in the fading light, still headed up. We turned around and never did reach the peak of that mountain.

The next hike was a  no brainer, straight up a peak in plain sight of the parking spot. But we missed a crucial turn, and by the time we reached the top, and the stunning, most amazing view, we noticed that we were truly alone, no other hikers or tourists, and were now looking across the valley at the peak we had intended to climb. Oh well, beautiful anyway!

For the third peak we joined a hiking club of experienced, trail toughened and fit retirees, twenty years our senior. I had a difficult time keeping pace. When we came to a pretty alpine lake, the sweat rolling down my forehead tempted me to join the brave few who were taking a dip. I stripped to my underwear and put in a big toe. It is humiliating to admit that I did not actually go in. My gusto only went so far, and no further.

The last peak was attained with an old friend who had lived in Vancouver all her life, and knew where she was going. So, up and down, no problem.  But the rest of that fall and winter my hiking buddy and I set out on Saturday mornings and walked by the cold weather ocean around the university point. We treaded through the soft sand and bounced over wave-rounded rocks, clambering over fallen tree trunks, and through the bulrush trails. On Wreck Beach we sat down to eat our sandwich lunch and admire the beautiful and nature hardened bodies of the members of Vancouver’s winter nudist colony. This time I kept my clothes on. Then we would end the walk with a stiff climb up the stairs to the university, and tromp the last two miles home.

We dreamed of hiking in France, or in the Rockies, or some other exotic place, and this was just our training. But in April, on my last climb, I noticed that my fitness had deteriorated significantly. I was working hard and taking courses on Saturdays for 8 weeks, and hoping to recoup my  former fitness gains later. But two days after the last day of my Sat. course, I  was driven to the hospital emergency room and would not be able to walk across a room without help for another two months.

But here is the best part. Lying in my hospital bed, I had a view of those mountains, and I relived those climbs over and over. Even though, at the time, they were considered training for something more substantial, in retrospect, they were the real thing. We threw ourselves at nature, and it proved not to be a fickle lover. Nature may kill you, but it will not reject you. My special relationship with the woods kept me company during those long mornings in hospital, when you wake up at 6 for blood tests, and then you wait until 9 or 10 for the rest of the day to begin, and finally the late afternoon for visitors. Nature was my special companion during those weeks when I thought my life was ending. I revelled in it, and I understood the rhythm of growth and decay, of life and death, and new life. I understood myself to be a part of nature, of nature’s process.

Dying and providing

January 7, 2014

I haven’t mentioned yet what I spent most of my time doing as I lay in the hospital bed, my last two weeks in hospital, thinking “this is it.” First, I phoned my older sister who is a professor and has no children of her own. She really helps others out a lot and I could see her as a surrogate parent for my children. I asked her to fly in from Toronto, and sit in my hospital room while I explained to my children the details of my will. I described in detail the various financial decisions that I had made since my divorce. I outlined property and investments, pension and life insurance. I had made a will, but since I was planning to marry, on death’s door or not, I needed to make a new will. I know a lot of friends my age who have not gone through all these details and organized them. Fortunately for me, I considered this my main task after divorce, and long before I became ill.

I considered being fully responsible for my children and paying for their university education a priority – my first priority after their general health and well being. I was extremely happy that I had already made these arrangements for my children and they were somewhat surprised that I had thought through the details and was not leaving them in the lurch. I felt it was important to have my sister there, so that as I went through the financial details of what would happen after my death, they would feel somewhat emotionally protected by knowing that there was also family available to them.

I also had to make arrangements for power of attorney for property decisions, and for a representation agreement for my care while I was dying. Then my fiancé and I, since we were still planning to marry, needed to make a cohabitation agreement, which is what a prenuptial agreement is called in BC. We discussed our families, our individual and joint commitments to our children, and met with a lawyer the week after I left the hospital.

The second week, I phoned my best friend in Toronto, a pension lawyer and a deeply spiritual person who takes a lot of responsibility for her own family, parents, siblings, children, etc. She came and sat by my bed while I discussed funeral arrangements and emotional issues relating to my children and siblings. Where did I want my funeral, how could I appropriately integrate my own choices with their fundamentalist culture, etc.

Sometime during that last week, I was given a procedure to relieve my kidney failure and was discharged from hospital, with a gloomy outlook nonetheless, but my main doctor, who follows my care, said I must now think in terms of “years” and not “days” or “months.”

Overall, the fact that I had committed to providing for my children made me feel exhilarated. I felt empowered and in control of what was happening to me and my family. I felt that I had taken on ultimate responsibility, planning, decision-making, providing and protecting my children in the case of my death. It felt right. I instinctively took on this attitude after my divorce because I knew it was what men were supposed to do and I knew that this really meant that this is what humans are supposed to do. As humans we are to be responsible for our children, our family, or whoever falls under our care. With family or not, it is human to have people to whom we owe responsibilities, and it enhances our humanity to fill these responsibilities. For some people, they are in need, and can’t do this. Then they may need to understand they have to receive the care of others. In so many ways, I too have been the net receiver of care. In so many ways. This is reality.

There are worse things than dying

January 6, 2014

I have taken the title from Don Carson.  He gives more details here. Yes, I agree, being betrayed is sometimes more painful than being close to death. Who betrayed me? Here is the list, familiar to Carson, I think. At the end of the list, we read this quote,

A feature of our cultural and ecclesial landscape is warped, bastard expressions of male malfeasance garbed as complementarian. These expressions are smug and an accessory to evil. . . . Women must deeply feel that male leaders are on their side, making decisions with their concerns on the table.

And Carson/Yarborough respond,

We must lovingly stress that Scripture repeatedly grounds gender roles not in first-century Palestinian culture but in creation.

How does this help if a woman is a victim of male malfeasance and evil? How? Yes, I felt that male leaders were on the side of the evil I endured. I did feel that, for sure, and I still do.

No matter what, the overwhelming trauma of living 30 years in complementarianism will not fade. The further away I get, the more I experience a normal, loving life, the more I realize that I lived those 30 years in severe physical and psychological pain and trauma. I will never be able to describe the absolute terror of living 30 years in a form of bondage that was supposedly willed on me, not by culture, not by my own stupidity, but by God when he created the world. That is what I believed. I tremble as I write this. It brings on nausea and shaking. It was completely terrible. But that is what Carson teaches, but he has never experienced the trauma himself. He wills it on the other sex.

Not all women experience complementarianism the way I did. However, the reality is that not once, while I was in the situation, did I express my true feelings about this belief. How would anyone know what women caught in this web of suppression really think? In the situation, there was a kind of numbness that keeps one going. There is a way to live and not live, at the same time. That is what it was like. So, no, I didn’t look traumatized at the time. But the first time I spoke of reality with anyone, the shock started to emerge.

So, like Carson, a near death experience was in no way as painful to me as other psychological trauma that I have experienced in life. It is kind of sad, because I was in Quebec at the same time as he experienced a spiritual revival there. I was a part of that. We are of the same age, of the same country, the same languages, but there is no commonality between us, we are two completely different beings in his view.

Anyway, now, I try to evoke these feelings less often, and don’t write or talk about it as much as I used to. But for today, just to explain why facing death does not seem too bad, when you know how bad life can be.

Spirituality and death

January 6, 2014

So I want to say up front that in the summer I almost died of renal failure. As it happens, this is recognized as one of the gentlest ways to die. I felt short of breath, and could only walk a few feet or stand a minute or so, without falling over. But lying down in my hospital bed with my IV in place, I felt only sleepiness and peaceful contentment. I had the perfect excuse to just lie there and not do anything. My favourite activity.

What I feel that I learned from this is that anxiety, depression, withdrawal, denial and all the other negative ways to react to dying may very well be a side effect of the way one is dying. For me, I felt only a peaceful resolution to life. But this had something to do with which chemicals are unleashed in the dying process. We should never judge the spirituality of someone who does not die well. We need to realize that it depends partly on which organ is shutting down, not on how one is walking with God.

I know – the doctors were a little baffled because my fiancé and I kept telling each other jokes, and watching Youtube and giggling and laughing, even when they told me the most dire news. They thought it was denial but it wasn’t. I’ll talk more about what I was thinking in further posts.

Here is one of the jokes I told him – he’s American, right.

ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”

Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”

Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”


Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

I have observed many Christians die, and it is a mixed experience. It can be very disturbing, since one’s expectations may not be fulfilled. Sometimes it is a peaceful release and other times a very stressful gasping for breath.

I have committed to writing these thoughts since I met a young woman nurse, standing in line in the airport. She shared some of her experiences, and asked me about mine, about how I felt. She seemed genuinely desiring of some kind of discussion or input, considering her own situation. She seemed very alone, very anxious but encouraged to observe me making the most of my life, come what may.

I have only really discussed dying with two or three people. So many people are afraid of the topic, or don’t have a starting place for it. Well, I have a starting place, but that’s all. However, I don’t mind talking about it.

Coming Out

January 6, 2014

First, I don’t quite mean it exactly as it sounds, but I have published a little profile image to go with comments. Also I have experienced some dramatic lifestyle changes this year. A few years ago I met a psychologist from New York and we kept in touch as friends, until last spring when we became engaged and married this past summer.

However, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious illness, and last June it hit a crisis. I ended up in hospital for about a month, getting tests and so on. Finally, a doctor just sat down and said that he was sorry that I was so young, (not that young) but anyway, I could not be cured and it was really too bad. I later learned that my husband (then fiancé) had been told I had only a few days or weeks to live. I could read that in the doctor’s face.

As it turns out, there was an intervention available, and I was discharged from hospital in fragile but stable condition. We got married a few weeks later. Now six months later, I am still in stable condition, no further developments.

So this is how it happens that I am on medical leave from my job in Vancouver, have moved to Toronto, and have submitted my application for a green card. I spend about half of every month in NJ, where we have a house, but I still travel back to Vancouver sometimes, by choice, for medical treatment. I am writing this because so many things have changed in my outlook in this past year. I want to talk about some of it on the blog.

Sale alert: Alter’s Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes

January 4, 2014

“Alert” is an anagram of “Alter” – and Robert Alter’s meritorious translation and commentary of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes is currently on sale in hardcover for $14 exactly on Amazon – cheaper than Amazon’s price for the corresponding paperback. 

Top news stories of 2013?

January 4, 2014

I’ve scanned a number of lists of “top news of 2013,” but to my surprise, none of the ones I looked at included what was undoubtedly one of the most important stories of 2013:  the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a parking lot in Leicester. 

Seriously, this story will undoubtedly become a staple of books on British history.  How can any future history of the War of the Roses – or of British middle ages – not include the story of the discovery of his remains in Leicester

Now maybe this showed up on some “top stories of 2013” list, but how did it miss most of the lists?

Adon Olam: Lord of Eternity

January 1, 2014

This is a very familiar liturgical hymn for Jews, dating back to the 15th century liturgies, and supposed to be from the 11th century or perhaps much earlier. The first line has often been translated “Lord of the Universe” since olam can mean either “eternity” “a very long time” or “the universe/world.” The transition from “eternity” to “world” happened some time in the last two millennia. So, in modern terms, “Lord of the Universe” but in the biblical sense, and in the sense of the poem itself, “Lord of Eternity.” Update: This is a translation by Esther Hugenholtz.  And here it is in Hebrew script.

Adon olam asher malach
Lord of Eternity Who reigned

b’terem kol yetzir nivra
before anything was created

Le’et na’aseh b’cheftzo kol
In the hour of Creation, He willed all

azai melech shemo nikra
and so His Name is known as King

V’acharei kichlot hakol
And after all is completed

levado yimloch nora
only He will reign in awesomeness

V’hu hayah v’hu hoveh
He was, He is

v’hu yihyeh betifarah
and He will be in splendour

V’hu echad v’ein sheni
He is Alone, there is no second

lehamshil lo lehachbirah
to rule Him in fellowship

B’li reishit, b’li tachlit
Without beginning, without end

v’lo ha’oz v’hamisrah
and His power is not shared

V’hu eli v’chai go’ali
Yet He is my God, He is my life and my Redeemer

v’tzur chevli be’et tzarah
my rock in vanity in my hour of need

V’hu nisi u’manos li
He is my banner and my shelter

menat kosi beyom ekra
He is my Cup [of salvation] on the day I call

Beyado afkid ruchi
In His hand I place my spirit

be’et ishan v’a’ira
in the hour of my sleep and waking

V’im ruchi geviyati
And with my spirit and body

Adonai li, v’lo ira
the Eternal is with me, I shall not fear

Here are two arguments for “Master/Lord of the Universe.” There is a conservative/liberal split in Judaism on whether this prayer/hymn should open with “Lord of the Universe” or “Eternal Lord.” A bit complicated. I have my own issues with Artscroll.

However, we do know that in the Hebrew Bible El Olam means Everlasting/Eternal Lord. In French and German this was translated as “Eternel” and “Ewige” which are equivalent to “Eternal.” They morph easily into a name for God. In English, “Everlasting God” has not become a popular name for God. Here are various translations for El Olam in Genesis 21:33,

בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה, אֵל עוֹלָם.

the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

το ονομα κυριου θεος αιωνιος

nomen Domini Dei aeterni

le nom du Seigneur, Dieu éternel

dem Namen des HERRN, des ewigen Gottes.

I can’t help feeling that in Greek, Latin, French and German, the use of the word for “eternal” lead to using this as a name for God, in a more popular way than in English. “Eternal” is easily abstracted to “eternity” and the quality of being “eternal” in a way that “everlasting” is not. In any case, I don’t think that Olivétan really brought about a paradigm shift in using “L’Eternel” for the name of God. He had access to a great deal of material, scholarly and rabbinical works for his translation.

In short, this poem emphasizes that God existed before matter, a Platonic position, rather than an Aristotelian one. God shares power with no one at all. God is one. God is represented by many metaphors that somewhat represent the nature of God, but none that exactly represent this eternal being who existed before matter. God cannot be anthropomorphized. God relates to humans today. God is redeemer and sustainer of life.

Positioning God before the creation of matter, outside of the beginnings of mortality, distances God from sex. Sex is created for the necessity of continuing the propogation of mortal species. God exists entirely outside of that. However, the Kabbalah, deeply dependent on this tradition, did develop a strong gender theology, sometimes very negative to women and sometimes not so much. It seems that there is a strong human tendency to anthropomorphize God, and to make God in the likeness of humans. Such is life.

If you click on the tag “Eternal” at the top right of this post you should get all 7 posts in this series.

Books about Women: old and new

January 1, 2014

Here is a selection of books, old and new, that are about women, by women, and about participation in the world of ideas, institutions, wars, market economy, art, exegesis and life in general.

Elizabeth Gaskell – 19th century, any movies or books (Kindle Editions $2.00 or under some free)  “North and South” “Mary Barton” “Wives and Daughters.” “Cranford” and many more.

Middlemarch by George Elliot 19th century (Kindle Edition is $1.06)

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 2013, an ingenious tale of moral and philosophical dilemmas, takes place in the Jewish and Syrian neighbourhoods of 19th century New York.

Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini, 2013- a true story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman who ran a spy network during the Civil War.

Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle, 1993, an adult novel, fully secular and fully exegetical, unique, – a woman writing exegesis by novel.

Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence by Jane Fortune, 2009

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen, 2011, about Sofonisba Anguissola, Renaissance artist

The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, trans. by Marvin Lowenthal, 1987, a Jewish woman merchant of the 17th century

The Life of Christina of Markyate by Fanous, Leyser, Talbot, 2010 about an 11th century determined young women who becomes a spiritual director. Lots of plot twists in her true life.

Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. 2013, The true story of deciphering Linear B, the Mycenean written language, with emphasis on Alice Kober’s ground breaking work.

The Age of Münter, Gontcharova, and Duchamp

December 31, 2013

On exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth is show of art called “The Age of …”; here, today I took a photo from the outside in (since photography isn’t permitted within).

Once inside, I studied carefully the 107 pieces, mostly paintings and some sculptures. I’d read the brochure, one paragraph of which I’ll also share with you:


Now, I guess you noticed that the one name I’ve highlighted for you is ambiguous: “Would that be, Marcel Duchamp?,” you ask. Well, yes, his works were there too.

But what if I told you this work was there (which I’ve copied from the webpage of the Art Institute of Chicago)?


Yes, you’re right. It’s by Marcel’s little sister, Suzanne Duchamp-Crotti. And her piece was there with his pieces.

But the following is not one of his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his either.


That one you may recognize is the single piece in the exhibit by Gabriele Münter.

Then there’s this one. Who’s it by? Well, I don’t blame you if it takes you a while given all those named on the brochure and those for whom the exhibit is prominently named. Yes, not one of those guys. Rather, this third piece of the one hundred and seven works of art shown is the one by Nathalija Gontcharova.


(I’d gone with my son to the exhibits at the Modern Art Museum across the street. Not much different. We saw two pieces by women, as I recall. All the other hundreds of pieces of modern art displayed were by men. Now, my son is a professional artist and one of my daughters is a painter and a college student, who, by the way, just did her own home improvement project last evening by tiling a bathroom floor. I’m just not sure what the implicit message by the art museums is here, are you? We pay money to see art, and we see art predominantly produced by men. There are token pieces by women, but don’t they belong to their age and to ours in equal measure?)

Writing in place

December 31, 2013

I read this with great interest and sympathy, China of my Mind . I to0 have many aunts and uncles, in laws and outlaws, who were in China, one being the first Brit to transverse China from ocean to India, another starting a boarding school, some incarcerated during the war and so on. We too had Chinese vases and embroideries. We had students from different parts of China living with us for many years, as well as a Chinese penpal from an orphanage in Hong Kong.

I also have a sister who lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing for years, writing letters home to Mother every week. She has published her autobiography and is a celebrated Sinologist. I have even been to China. But could I write about it?? I don’t think so. But I haven’t read this book so perhaps it is well done. I can’t say.

When I write, all senses are engaged. Here are the Beechwoods, and you can compare this with Fully Adam or Last Christmas.  Could I write this if I hadn’t been there?

I had never walked in a Beech Wood before,

The bright emerald green in the sunlight

And the rustling sound of the wind,

the large simple shape of the leaves

and the majesty of solid trunks and solidarity among the trees.


In winter the skeletons all show against the sky

and the leaves on the ground have rotted into the earth

I walk not on Beech leaves, but on the rough leather of

intermingled undecayed alder and oak leaves, red, white, pin,

and the smell of pungent balsam and fir is absent,

like a live thing that I had thought would walk through

these woods with me. But it isn’t there. I didn’t realize.

No needled scent from the ground rises up to my nostrils

and beckons me down to that rich aroma of dirt and duff


I lift my eyes instead to the sky

and float among the dark interlaced and spindled branches

thrown into relief against the dying lemon yellow sky

of a fast approaching winter night.

55 Canadianisms you may not know

December 31, 2013

HT  Challies. I had so many perplexing moments lining up for black tea with homo milk and a serviette, while wearing a tuque and my skookum boots! There seemed to be some suggestion that I was just making all these words up. But no, here it is on the internet. I honestly find living without the Robertson screw head a real pain. I am constantly shredding  threads and that just isn’t possible with a Robertson. Icing sugar. I can live without that. Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 8.03.30 AM


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