Ashes to sawdust

Sawmill Creek got its name legitimately. Back in 1823, one of Ottawa’s earliest pioneers constructed a sawmill on the south side of the Rideau River where the creek empties. The settlement grew from the timber trade along its other river – the Ottawa – but logging, lumberjacks, and log-drivers built the communities to the south of the Rideau, too. Continue reading

The apple doll years

Apple doll

Two decades ago a social worker told me it isn’t unusual for adoptive moms to experience grief when their daughters reach puberty. She said as our kids enter their reproductive years, many adoptive moms are approaching our apple doll years. We watch their lives blossom while we become fruit leather. The wise social worker said we might grieve again our own losses all those years ago. Loss of fertility, loss of genetic continuity, loss of the child we wanted but couldn’t have. Continue reading

Bear paw suit

I’m naked under a thermal hospital gown waiting for knee surgery. The gown is called a “bear paw”. The name is not comforting. Bears are scary and their paws and claws are flesh-shredding rasps. Why would they name a hospital gown after a weapon?

Bear paws are a ready made snack, too. A pastry like thing. When the nurse tells me to slip into the bear paw I’m confused because I’m hungry after nine hours of fasting. All I can think about is food. Continue reading

Dog days at the market

Today Was a Good Day

We love farmers’ markets – the food, the dogs, the people, and in this case, the booze! What a surprise to be tasting delicious alcoholic concoctions at 10:30 in the morning. I think people brought their dogs in case they drank too much at least someone would be able to find their way home.

These photos were taken at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market on Vancouver Island, Canada. Such zeal towards food production was energizing and satisfying, but not inexpensive. I wonder if the farmers didn’t grow their own food could they afford to buy it?


In the garden of weedin’

Our dead end street holds 14 of 72 homes in our condominium community. I know half the residents by name. One of them won’t speak to me even though we used to be friendly. I think it’s because she overhead me talking to another neighbour during which I thickly larded the conversation with the f-bomb.

Day lily
Day lilies – the dandelions of the garden.

Yesterday, I was busting up a patch of flowers impacted in an impenetrable layer of grass roots. It was impossible to pull out the frisky spikes poking through the mass so I was hatcheting it with my spade like I was chopping up a carcass. It felt great. With every chop into the matted mess, a puff of chlorophyll and earth musk hit me and I was getting stoned with the exploding scents. Endorphins added to the mix making me giddy with the joy of digging. Continue reading

Goldfish pond

Hidden at the side of the house, under a peeling arbutus tree, was an oval, moss-ringed, cement goldfish pond. In the plush winters on Vancouver Island the pond seldom froze. If it did, and I remembered, I chipped away the thin skin so the fish would live. Thinking of them frozen in the dark, suspended – dead – worried me. I say them. I don’t know how many there were – at least two. One was as big as my thumb. Continue reading

Suzanne and A Boy Named Sue

My name is Susanne and for years Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and Shel Silverstein taunted me because of my name. Cohen wannabes stalked me through high school corridors mimicking his edgy baritone –

“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy…”

I smiled and tried to look mysterious and worldly, like a woman from Montréal, Cohen’s hometown, might look. With hair like the top of a teased cotton swab, this effect was hard to achieve. Jimi Hendrix had hair like mine but it didn’t work so well on a gangly white girl with fishbowl glasses. Still, I was pleased to be thought of as that kind of Suzanne – alluring and half crazy. It sounded tragically romantic. Continue reading

Why is it called submission?

I submitted. I closed my eyes, forgot about consequences and just did it. Now I’m in a panic because I fear the inevitable rejection that everyone says is part of the process. Or worse than rejection – indifference.

What I want to know is why is it called submission? When I sent off my first story for consideration to a magazine editor this week, I gave my heart. I opened an emotional artery. I held my breath and I submitted serious thoughts on a serious subject to a stranger. I could have kept these thoughts to myself, left well enough alone but I decided to put myself out there and now it’s done and I’m exposed and afraid.

It’s a perilous game with only two outcomes – success or failure. While I wait, I self-flagellate. I commit psychological harakiri. I am nauseated. I administer regular mental floggings. Sweat soaked sheets and tear filled pillowcases need frequent changing. That’s what submission does.

It should be called consideration.

Here is my story for your consideration.
I’d like you to consider my words.
I appreciate your consideration.
I know you will show consideration for my work.

Thank you for allowing me to consider your work.
I have given your essay considerable thought.
Your work deserves careful consideration.
In consideration of your skillful efforts I am pleased to accept your fine work.

See? Now that’s a balanced relationship. Look at the thoughtful editor, sitting at her desk, surrounded by stacks of manuscripts; a cup full of red pens, one tucked behind her ear, glasses perched on her head, gazing out the window into the New York skyline as she meditates on the merits of the essay she has just read. She’s evaluating. She’s reflecting. She is considering and she is not asking anyone to submit. Because she cares. She will reply, reject with respect, and move to the next piece of work for her consideration.

Chains: Chains, rust, orange, metal, iron fishingYes. Well. Why not?

In the meantime, I await the outcome, handcuffed and bound by a process that renders me submissive, hoping for some attention from the Master. It’s a sick business and I’m just one of the many willing victims eager to submit.

Please. I beg you – tell me your submission stories – the worse, the better.

Bottle full of promises

Go ahead, take a sniff. You’ll feel better. I promise – I do.

I screw open the top, take a whiff and no matter what time of year, it’s summer and  I am at a hot spring resort somewhere in northwestern British Columbia, Canada swimming in a pool that becomes a Coppertone oil slick. Why we need suntan lotion in the wettest climate north of the Amazon rainforest, I don’t know.

It’s the promise inside the bottle, the colour of desire, the colour I want to be but can never attain – a sizzling brown, gleaming like a piece of jewelry in the sun, so dazzling people have to turn away. It’s the promise of tan lines and naughty white flesh beneath my bikini, innocence fenced by the hussy of my tanned hide, flaunting itself in the rays of the brazen sun. Welcome, shameless gaze!

Instead I get sunburned flaky skin, freckled and hot, forever pallid. No matter how often I peek beneath the straps, the colour differences are the colours of the Canadian flag – red and white. The bottle slumps in despair at the impossible task being asked of it. It is whispering to the molecules inside: “Why she bothers is beyond me. Oh well, here comes the squeeze. Brace yourself. We’re gonna do our best to make this kid look like a California dime. With any luck she’ll blend in with all the other bodies draped over their towels, twisting their necks backwards to see what colour their legs are turning.”

It’s beach play with shovels and pails, sandcastles and leaky moats, pebbled garrisons, driftwood damsels with seaweed hair. Sand dimpled skin, crusted with salt, bathing at the end of the day and watching my castle swirl down the drain. Tomorrow, I will build another castle even bigger and better and tell a new stick-people story.

Better than white wine spritzers, it’s a spirit lifter with no calories, at least not if used as directed. Maybe it does have calories if you drink it, but I’m not suggesting you drizzle Coppertone on your Mai Tai, just replace your body lotion with it. Slather it all over your summer starved limbs and cod-belly-white torso, lovingly rub sunshine into your day. Transport yourself to the beach with a good book that doesn’t get read, that sits on your chest as you watch the waves tumble up the sand, bubbling possibilities reaching for your toes …. whoa, is that Bradley Cooper walking towards you?

It’s Innocence. It’s Carefree. It’s “I’m too young to get cancer. What’s cancer? The sun gives you cancer? But I’m too young.” Before wrinkles, before caring, before knowledge, before the first time you glance in the mirror and see freckles that aren’t. Before the scolding dermatologist. Before SPF 3000.