Search This Blog

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Seeing the heron rise from Grenadier Pond and fly away, his huge wings flapping, is awe-inspiring. If I'm lucky, I see it once or twice each summer.


When except for that do I feel awe?


I felt awe the day the snake stared at me from the water.


My husband and I were vacationing in Prince Edward County. We had gone to a park on the water, though the water was actually fifty feet below the level of the park. We followed the steps down to the beach, which was covered with round and oval stones, and I led us over to an area of large flat rocks, where we could sit and look at the water.


Just as I reached the first flat rock, my husband about 20 feet behind me, a snake slid out from under it and raced to the water. I was startled but not frightened, and I was surprised that it had gone into the water. I hadn't expected that a snake would be water-friendly.


The snake had disappeared into the water, so we, a pair of well-fed, smug tourists, sat on the flat rock to look at the world around us. The water was smooth as glass. At the horizon the water and the sky were the same shade of grey, so the meeting point was not distinct. Water became sky became water became sky.


We turned and looked at the cliffs behind us, up where we had left our rental car. We looked over to the left, then to the right, seeing the curved shoreline and the trees that marched down the slope of the cliff toward the water.


Then we turned back and looked straight before us. I saw a stick standing straight up in the water. An odd sight. I didn't remember having seen it earlier. The stick didn't move. But I saw that this stick was thicker at the top. This was a stick with a head.


"My dear," I said, "is that a stick or a snake?"


We watched the "stick" and the snake watched us, unwavering. She stared directly at us from twenty feet away, standing, apparently, on the tip of her tail, as straight as a die, reaching her head skywards and watching us. Watching us.


And willing us to move, I finally decided.


"I think she wants us to change rocks," I said. We did. We moved over to the next flat rock, some 15 feet away, and we watched the stick/snake. She began slowly to lower herself into the water and then to move forward, always keeping her head just above the surface and always watching us.


At water's edge she continued on up over the rocky beach, sliding more quickly now, and then disappeared under her original home.


We never saw her again.


I have no doubt that she communicated with us. She told us, through her stare, what she wanted: she wanted her home back. We got the message. We didn't have to leave the beach. We had only to change rocks.


How could I not be in awe of this encounter?


And yet, several years later, when I had another chance meeting with a snake, in the Bahamas, I forgot what I had learned and I met this second snake with the fear and loathing with which we ignorant humans often react to snakes.


I was getting ready for bed. As I reached to close the blind at the window just above my bed, I noticed (not wearing my glasses) a something on the inside of the window screen. Still without glasses, I reached to touch it. Oh. A snake.


And I forgot awe. I forgot the origin of the serpent. I forgot goddesses. I called for help.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lovely Lilacs

What's so lovely about lilacs is their everywhereness: a poet's lilacs, the Indiana lilacs of the child-me, lilacs in Tennessee around the foundations of old farm-houses, lilacs in this morning's laneway (both purple ones and white), growing so tall above the brick wall that they were unavailable for a sniff (some people stop and smell the roses, but me—it's lilacs at nose level that I find irresistible), lilacs all along someone's back fence or lining the sidewalk on the way to the campus. Gather ye lilacs while ye may.


That's not all I have to say about lilacs. I almost bought a lilac bush this year. I was looking for a replacement for the viburnum that gave up the ghost during winter's snows. I looked and looked at lilac bushes, but I couldn't make a decision. If I planted a lilac in that same spot, creating a dream of lilacs at the corner of my house forever, and if that lilac bush died (and it might, for who knows why the viburnum failed to thrive), then I would feel the loss too strongly to survive. I myself would die from lilac-yearning.


Besides, how could I choose the appropriate lilac? What I really want is an old variety, a true lilac smell (not one labeled "spicy" or "extra-sweet"). What I really want is for someone to have planted a lilac bush twenty years ago at the corner of the house. I resign myself to the fact that it's too late now for me to start anew with my own lilac bush. I'll just continue to stop and sniff every lilac I come across.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lavender's Blue (dilly-dilly)

The scent of lavender is unmistakable. My big wooden box of essential oils is arranged more or less alphabetically. The way my world runs, it is usually nighttime when I find myself in need of lavender—to help me sleep, perhaps, or to calm a headache. I make my way over to the box in the dark, trying not to step onto, say, the sharp edge of a carelessly tossed Birkenstock. I know approximately where the lavender bottle is in the box, and I take out and open one bottle at a time from that general area. Some of the scents I don't recognize, and some are similar to others. But the lavender is unmistakable. When I have finally found it, I drop three drops into my left hand, rub my right-hand fingers into it, and slather it onto the back of my neck, reveling in the astringent but floral scent as much as in the pride of having found it in the dark.


Lavender is a useful oil. If you are prone to panic attacks or anxiety, to depression, to inertia, try lavender. Put a drop or two into one hand, rub your hands together briskly, then cup your hands over your nose and mouth and breathe in deeply and slowly for three to five breaths. Or longer if you can spare the time. If your anxiety comes when (or because) you are in a meeting, prepare for the meeting this way: put two drops of lavender on a kerchief or tissue and keep it in your purse. When the inanity and/or nastiness of the meeting threatens to overcome you, simply hold the kerchief or tissue beside your nose, as if to stifle a sneeze, say, or dab a runny nose. You can breathe in the calming lavender with no one the wiser, thus allowing you to keep both your job and your sanity.


This year I transplanted a small, unhealthy lavender plant from the front yard to a pot in the back. In its gratitude it is currently giving me a small display of flowers at the end of stems that are expanding and multiplying to fill the pot. I in my turn am grateful.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shoes for Dancing

I have worn Birkenstocks for the last 40 years, sandals in the summer and some sort of closed-toe slip-on as a house shoe in the winter.


Like all Birkenstock wearers, I have experienced the sharp, shooting pain of accidentally stepping on the sharp edge of the comfortable valley cradling my foot. I know how dangerous that can be, since the immediate, fierce pain demands a quick response and can precipitate a fall.


In 2000 the Bone Clinic took me through a long list of potential falling hazards: don't climb on chairs to reach something (use a ladder instead); don't strew little throw-rugs around the house—they will trip you up; and don't wear Birkenstocks or other shoes that are awkward and/or might slip off your feet.


They weren't telling me anything I didn't already know. And we are all aware that falling is NOT what we want to do. (I was, however, struck by a friend's story that when her father turned 65 he took a series of Tae Kwan Do classes expressly to learn how to fall without hurting himself.)


Recently two-year-old Georgia came to visit, riding on her mother's hip. Although we are great friends, that day Georgia began playing shy, hiding her face, refusing to go to Nana. So Nana began playing the game. I danced away from her, saying "Oh no! NO, don't let that baby come near me! Keep that baby away!" And I shuffled backward until I bumped into the big chair and then began to shuffle sideways, away from Georgia. I was, of course, wearing my in-house Birkenstocks.


And the lesson for today, dear ones? You can't dance sideways in Birkenstocks. One of them stuck fast to the floor, thus failing to slide to the left, as I was commanding my foot to do, and the other shoe bumped into it. I was dancing, remember?


So over I went. The view I have of myself in general is more or less the same as it has always been: I am 15. All right, I am 25. I weigh what I always used to weigh. My body is lithe and graceful and responds quickly to stimuli (as in "Help! I'm falling!").


Well, that's an interesting image to bear in my mind, but it's far from the truth. When I began to fall I was aware, for the whole 90 seconds it took me to hit the hardwood floor, of how very heavy I am. Or at least how much stronger gravity has become over the years.


I went over, falling to the left, in an arc so graceful that everyone at first thought I was doing it on purpose. Nice to know I have retained a graceful move, even if it comes into play only when I am falling. I landed on the side of my elbow and the side of my knee, both of which hurt like the dickens. My head had come within inches (perilously close, is the term I would use) of slamming sideways into the oak coffee table. (I realized this only after I had been pulled into a sitting and then standing position.)


Many helpings of arnica and applications of Traumeel later, I was absolutely fine. I didn't even feel the residual shock that sometimes stays in the whole body. Arnica really works.


I was lucky. And I am open to suggestions for new house shoes. They must be comfortable and easily slipped on, requiring no shoelaces or buckles or other fasteners to slow me down. They don't have to be fashionable. But I must be able to dance sideways while wearing them, should the occasion arise.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor