Saturday, November 16, 2019

Picking a Peach in the Garden of Love

All her life, my grandma told us "I was the only farm girl, back then, who rode for pleasure."  ("Back then" was the last years of the 1800's and early 1900's, when horse and buggy was the usual transportation.)

One day, she galloped into town, stopping her horse with a flourish that raised dust, catching the eye of the town's most eligible bachelor, the handsome new bank manager, Wilford Marr.

"Who's that?" he asked.

"That's Florence Fitzsimmons," came the reply.

Soon he came calling. She was his "Floss" for the rest of his life.

"The town girls were all mad that he chose a farm girl," my grandma would always say, with satisfaction.

They raised five kids through the Depression, in a big old white house on Lorne Avenue, in Saskatoon. My grandma did the family laundry by hand in the bathtub, all the sheets and pinafores and dresses that created so much laundry back then. Wilf helped her wring them out. In the prairie winters, she hung the wash outside, where it froze solid. Then she brought it indoors and stood the pants and dresses up around the rooms to thaw and dry.

Jobs were scarce. My grandpa did accounting for whoever would hire him. Often, in those hungry years, he got paid in coal, or potatoes, occasionally a chicken - whatever a client could pay, he brought home to feed his family and keep them warm.

My grandma had a kind heart. Even when life was so harsh, when tramps came to her door, she found them something to eat. (And they came often; word got out.)

My mom recalled walking home through the brutal prairie cold, anticipating a pork chop for dinner. When she arrived, a tramp was sitting at the table polishing off her chop. She told the story with chagrin sixty years later, still missing the taste of that pork chop she never got to eat.

My grandparents passed their fiftieth, and then their sixtieth anniversaries before my grandpa died at ninety-three. Grandma lived on to be a few weeks short of a hundred years old.

"I picked a peach in the garden of love," she would muse. "Those town girls were so mad, but Wilf chose me."

Inspired by the photo at The Sunday Muse, and also sharing it with the Pantry of Poetry and Prose at Poets United.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Gulag Mornings

Kelowna Winter

I woke and left the house in the dark
those winter mornings,
when I attended Mass before school.
The only sound was my feet
crunching through the frozen snow,
and the hum of electricity
through the hydro lines above.

One morning, the only person awake
in the universe, I heard Sputnik
crossing the heavens.

It was freezing, my breath making clouds.
My blue coat was thin, a castoff
from one of my grandma's friends.
I wrapped a woollen scarf over my head
and around my neck and looked,
a classmate sneered, "like a refugee."
I felt like a refugee, from human kindness,
for everywhere I went,
I found no comfort there.

The church was softly lit, and warm,
a sanctuary; the smell of incense and 
the murmured Latin words a note of constancy
in a world where I had not yet
found my place.

After Mass, I'd cross the icy field
to school, where I laughed too loudly,
played the fool, to hide the pain
of feeling not enough midst my secure,
white-bread companions, whose lives,
I imagined, held no terrors, whose nights,
no secrets, whose hearts, no wonderings
about where they belonged
in this endless Gulag winter landscape
I was crossing,
all alone.

for Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif: to write a winter poem. Just as in early childhood, it was always summer, in my teens, it was always winter. So cold, in Kelowna, in those years when kids walked everywhere, and were not coddled.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sharing the Love

Photography by Sarolta Ban
Her website: here

When music sounds in the forest,
the trees perk their ears,
relax their shoulders,
assume an attitude of
Deep Listening.
Small creatures creep out
from their hidey-holes,
bright-eyed and shining.

I was singing as I climbed the hill,
singing as I went down 
the other side.
They followed me
with their gentle hooves,
I moving quickly
so they wouldn't overtake me,
dirt crumbling ahead of me 
down the slope.
Still singing.

Of course creatures love music.
"Let the beauty we love
be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways
to kneel and kiss the ground"*
the wise sage said.

So now, when I remember to,
I sing along the forest trails,
trying to be a good creature,
along with all the others.
Sharing the love.

* quote by Rumi

Being a good creature is inspired by the book I am reading now titled How to Be a Good Creature, by  Sy Montgomery,  about the animals in her life. It is  a complete delight to read.

for Carrie at The Sunday Muse

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Starfire When We Pass

Step into the circle, sister mine,
and feel our bond
through all the years of time
that brought us through
times beautiful and dire,
to this moment when
we step into
blue fire.

I lived a love
that became mine alone.
He knew not how to
for his past atone,
returned the gift,
and went off on his own,
so I carried it
through all the years:
a poem.

In the circle,
we return where we belong,
where all the loves we lost
are worth the cost.
We are finite.
We are also infinite,
each one note
in the universal song.
Our lives create
sweet memories that will last.
As the veil lifts,
we step through the looking-glass.
We transform into starfire
when we pass.

Sharing this poem from 2018 with the fine folk at Poets  United, where you will find wonderful reading every Sunday morning. Come join us!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Tree of Me

When I was young, I was a bud
tossed by every storm.
I felt my not-enough-ness,
tried to be like all the rest,
who seemed
so magnificently blessed.

Our journeys, though,
we are forced to make
as ourselves,
which rubs off all the artifice,
washing it away with tears
through the questing years.

I grew myself a tree
through the centre part of me,
to keep me strong
when winds blew hard.
My arms needed to be strong,
to support four saplings
as they tossed and turned.
It saved me,
was the best thing
that I learned.

In old age,
my tree is weary.
There is nothing artificial
in my branches, bent and bare.
What's left is a battered trunk,
and the heart still beating warmly,

I took the idea of being as authentic as a tree from Susan's comment at Poets United, where she said she wished she was as authentic as a tree. (You are, my friend!)

for Susan's  Midweek Motif: Authenticity. 

Also sharing it with Rajani's  prompt: Old

Monday, November 4, 2019

Mother Wolf

“The loss of the wolf is like the loss of the mother. Somewhere she roams in memory, in darkness. Our bond with her is inexplicable, before the beginning of time. She is fierce love; she is sorrow." 

-from The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartók

"The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That's how much gratitude I can give.......Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible.

-Francis Ward Weller


In the dark cave, she stirs, 
nose twitching,
the scent of wildness and 
a cold north wind
luring her outdoors.
Her small ones huddle within, 
shivering, hungry.

It is a dangerous world.
The mother walks warily, 
eyes alert, watchful.
She keeps to the shadows, 
startling at every sound.

Her hunt for food requires 
skirting the ominous territory 
where the Other lives,
the Two-Leggeds with their 
clamor and their guns,
their ridiculous fear and hatred.

She may not make it home 
to the cave where 
her young ones wait, 
mewling pitiably.


It is a perilous world 
for mothers of every species
and their young.
How to keep small ones alive and safe,
with danger on every side, 
and in the air we breathe?


Our Great Mother mourns 
as she burns and floods,
her storms fierce with sorrow,
striving to find balance,
repeating her seasonal refrains, 
midst the bombs, the fires
and the fracking,
the emissions, the warming, 
the melting, the rivers running
with oil, the streets calamitous
with cars and blood -
the future hanging by a thread.


How much sorrow can I hold?
As much as my love of her beauty,
her fierceness, her over-arching sky -
that much, and more,
I will love and grieve for her
and her wild creatures,
until the sandman shuts my eyes
on her heartbreaking, hopeful 
eternal beauty
for the last time.

for my prompt at Real Toads: the Wolf Mother

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Prose: A Big Black Dog

The big black dog was trained by the Nazis to lunge, growl, bark and snarl at the arrivals. He followed the  orders of the men in uniform; he was given his meals. It was all he knew, the life he was bred and trained for. 

One day he was walking the periphery of the camp alone, along the fence. He saw a young girl sitting by herself, in the sun.  She exuded a peaceful energy he had not encountered before, living among his pack of angry shouting soldiers. Curious, he moved closer. He sat, head tilted. Their eyes met. She smiled.

After that, at the same time every day, he made his walk along the fence and stopped to sit with her. Each day, she gave him a small piece of bread she had saved for him.

They shared silent companionship. He learned there was another way to be than the life he had been trained for.

Next lifetime, he sought and found her again. This time she was a Wild Woman with a peaceful heart on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. This time, it was all - and only - peace and love, joy along the sandy shore. 

196 words for the Pantry of Poetry and Prose at Poets United.