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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Singing and Not Singing

I have a song

that's waiting to be sung.

What if I never sing it?

Suppose I try--

don't "try", they say; just do it--

suppose I try and it doesn't sing?

Suppose it hides behind

the shutters of my mind

and will not be sung.

Is that my fault,

just one more count against me

in the course of my existence?


Do songs hibernate?

Mine lies curled inward,

soft fleshy parts protected

by the carapace of my armoured back.

It might emerge with spring—

the green time,

the time of yellow blooms—

or it might not.


My song will hibernate

until it is good and ready

to be sung (and thus heard);

God alone knows when that will be,

and she's not telling.

And me? I hibernate in concert

with the song.

Wait for me to emerge,




Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Still Water

Still Water


With pen in hand

I still my zealously controlling mind

and let come what will.

What stillborn thought arises?

What notion moves my pen?

I still direct my thoughts,

even though committed to stillness,

and my fingers nod up and down

in response to my reflections

because, when all is said and done,

the task remains the same:

Give silent voice to mind's musings,

no matter how lame,

in the name of writing,

which, as we know,

begets writing.


We must remember that,

in writing as in life and love,

we have to kiss a lot of frogs

before we find the prince.

I'll change the tone here:

We get to kiss a lot of frogs

before, etc.


I will set myself the task of

loving the frogs I kiss—

each one different,

each kiss rich with learning.

Today's message: don't judge the frog.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Christmas Vacation Week

What will I do for my Christmas vacation? I hope to do exactly what I did last year: nothing. Nothing. There were no dates on the calendar. For the entire long week between December 24 and January 2, the calendar was blank. Each day occasioned its own adventure.


On the day after Christmas last year, I began cleaning out, finally, the big walk-in closet where I keep whatever fabric I have left, along with extra towels, beach towels, and (now) clean tablecloths and napkins waiting to be ironed. I went through every drawer of the wire storage unit, discarding and sorting. I salvaged enough medium-sized remnants to make gift bags for the next 25 Christmases. I threw out an entire big black garbage bag of scraps too small to be useful (thereby acknowledging that I will never make a quilt from tiny scraps, never use them to fashion one-of-a-kind greeting cards, never become a creator of tiny dolls from tiny pieces of fabric that I once loved). I filled another big black garbage bag with scraps and oddments just large enough to be useful, and I sent that bag to Goodwill.


I loved doing that work because there were no other demands on my time. Clearing and sorting were the only items on the agenda, and that was exactly what I wanted to be doing.


But man does not live by work alone. On Wednesday of that week we decided to go out, just the two of us. We went to see a first-run movie, which we try to do once a year just to show that we're still part of mainstream culture. In order to get to a movie these days, of course, you have to pass through a food court ("New York Fries"? Whatever does that mean?) and then sit through twenty minutes of ear-piercing ads for nine coming attractions (or, more accurately, non- attractions). But we did all that in the interests of seeing how other folk live, and our reward was "The King's Speech," which was a lovely film. (Even my husband liked it, and he hates historical or biographical films because the facts are always wrong. As soon as we got home, he looked up the REAL story and pointed out all the liberties taken by the script.)


Because this was A Day Out, we then went to lunch and had a miserably mediocre meal at a vegetarian cafeteria downtown (no names, please). Vegetables are so delicious that I am astounded to find such pedestrian food still being served as "vegetarian." This restaurant was terrible five years ago when I first tried it, and if anything it has gone downhill since then. (You ask why we went? Do I really have to tell you that my thrifty husband had a money-saving coupon?)


Fed, if not really satisfied, we continued our outing by shopping in the Land's End section of Sears, dodging our way through the mauling of the mall called the Eaton Centre. We visit malls at least as often as we attend first-run movies, so this fulfilled our mall requirement for the year. There was nothing at the Land's End that I could bear even to look at, let alone try on. Walking back toward the escalator, I was struck by the futility of consumerism: all those ugly clothes waiting to be sold, having been produced in third-world sweatshops by barely-paid women and children. And there were so MANY! So many identical pairs of tan polyester slacks, so many garish blouses and knit tops—all ugly and all the same. No one was buying them. What happens to these clothes at the end of the season? Underpaid garment workers spend their lives slaving away on these clothes that no one wants. Are the unsold clothes sent to landfill? Or stored in a gigantic warehouse in hopes that someone will buy them next year?


Walking past those clothes racks fueled my righteous indignation and gave me the energy to make it to our next destination, a shoe store that sometimes carries shoes in narrow widths. Their on-sale boots were tempting (like many urban women in cold climates, I carry with me always the feeling that I probably need a new pair of boots). I tried on a pair. Deliberated. Tried on another pair. Nothing was what I wanted. Nothing was as comfortable as my current little black boots. I left the store feeling guilty for having wasted the salesman's time. Oh, I know, it's his job—but I still felt guilty.


This Day Out was a good reminder of why I love staying home (as if I needed a reminder). Our supper was vegetarian and much better than the restaurant food we'd eaten at noon.


When I went to bed that night I couldn't sleep. My mind swarmed with visions from the day: the movie; the crowds; the un-usable clothing; the wandering, lost people who seemed to hope that purchasing a new little something at the mall would fill the gaping hole in their hearts.


Thus ended another day of last year's Christmas vacation week. And now I'm looking forward to the new week of nothing that will start on Tuesday, December 25, 2012—assuming that the Mayans meant something different from what the doomsayers are telling us and that Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice, is simply the return of the light—and not the end of the world.


In the meantime, may we be touched by the grace of this season. May our days be merry and bright.

Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 9, 2012


For Christmas last year I put lights in the front windows and hung ornaments around them for a sparkly effect. Because this wasn't necessarily Christmas-y and because we had no actual, shedding tree, I felt I could leave the decorations up until the light came back to us, whenever that might be. At the end of February I decided the days were no longer so short that I needed to plug in my   little white lights at 6:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.


As I removed the ornaments—some precious and breakable and with long histories, some precious and not breakable (like the gilded walnut shells that my friend Pohle-Linda made for the children when they were young)--I placed the fragile ones in various boxes, either the boxes in which they arrived or boxes that have accumulated for the purpose over the years.


One of the boxes is blue cardboard in the shape of an old-fashioned Chinese take-out box (before Styrofoam containers). You know the kind I mean: cleverly folded, with a wire handle inserted on each side. Well, it struck me that I could open out that box and use it as a template to make a couple of dozen similar boxes. To decorate my boxes I could watercolour them or rubber-stamp them, draw with oil pastels, paste on punched-out shapes—I could do whatever I wanted. Cutting and folding those dozens of boxes would give me a collection of identically sized containers for my Xmas ornaments, each one decorated as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. I could, if I wanted to, label each one as to which ornament it contained. Or I could NOT label them and be surprised when I opened boxes at random the next year.


I truly believe there was a time in my life when I would have done this, just because it happened to pop into my mind. But here's what happens to such ideas: someone says,

Oh, I think that's a marvelous idea. Then you could sell them! You could start a little business and hire starving artists to do the decorating and sell them to Holt Renfrew or Lord & Taylor. Oh, this is SO exciting. You could make a fortune.


And if someone says that to me, then I have to say: my dear, I admire your enthusiasm, but I believe you've forgotten who it is you are talking to. I might conceivably, MAYbe, if I got really excited about it, make a few of these boxes—say, a dozen—for my most favourite, breakable ornaments. But to make a business of it? To hire other people to do the fun part? What would be in it for me if I did that? Except, if you are right, some money. But I would be left doing what I DON'T want to do (running a business) while others would be doing what I DO want to do (that's IF I want to do it in this case; I still haven't decided)—namely, the art part.


And then she would say, oh, of course. I forgot who I was talking to.


And that would be the end of that.


For last year, then, the idea of individually decorated Chinese take-out boxes was shelved, along with the ornaments, which I wrapped, more or less carefully, in tissue and layered into one big box labeled: "Ornaments—front windows."


But this is another year. The ornaments have not yet been retrieved from their basement home, but they will be soon. And perhaps this February, when I finally, reluctantly, remove them from public display, I will drop everything else for a week and devote my time to making decorated Chinese take-out boxes to store them in.

Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Travel Report

My husband came up to me and said, "Take a deep breath."


I did, not knowing at all what might be coming. My husband follows his own,  unpredictable path. This day as he was finishing the paper (he's much more thorough about it than I am, so it obviously takes him longer) he had found an ad for a relatively inexpensive airline package to Paris. After I took in my big breath, he asked, "How would you like to go to Paris?"


I can imagine the delight most women would feel at such a question. Squeals of joy, big hugs and kisses, all-round gratitude. My husband mentioned a few possible time periods that were available to us (he had already checked our calendar). I said, I think, "Well, that's an interesting idea. I'm going to need to think about it." But I gave him a hug anyway, even if I was undecided.


The idea percolated for a few hours. How would I like to weather the packing, the pre-boarding security restrictions, the line-ups. And then I would climb into a metal tube, scrunch myself into a tiny space, and spend six hours flying over the ocean. (You do know that airplanes are demonstrably heavier than air, don't you?)


Then we would land, jet-lagged, maneuver our bags and ourselves to the pre-chosen hotel that would be our home for the next week. We would unpack, uncomfortable with each other because we both respond badly to the business of traveling from one place to another.


I ponder all this. I imagine what we will do for our six days in Paris. Walk a lot. Eat at mediocre little restaurants (better than North American "mediocre," but not at all up to the standards of France's little restaurants of 50 years ago). And I noticed that I wasn't yet getting any more enthusiastic about the proposed trip. I really didn't want to rain on my husband's parade. Here he was presenting an opportunity for us to be alone together with no responsibilities other than figuring out how to navigate the Paris subway system. And large in my mind was the thought that other people would love the idea of going to Paris in the spring. What was wrong with me?


Then I imagined walking the streets of Paris. What shoes would I be wearing? They would have to be both comfortable and fashionable. What clothes would I be wearing? I remembered our three months in Menton, all those years ago. Whatever I wore seemed to invite hostile stares from every woman I passed. Was I ready to run the gauntlet of the French fashion police again?


Not everyone cares what others think of them in public. But if I have to go to another place, I want to wear protective camouflage. I want to fit in, to look as if I belong. I do not ever want to be seen as a tourist, even though that's what I am. But I also like the way I am, the way I dress. I don't want to be uncomfortable or to buy a new wardrobe. However would I dress to fit in on Paris streets?


Even that wasn't the clincher. The clincher was my hair. I don't know what older Frenchwomen do when their hair thins alarmingly, but I'll bet my bottom dollar that they don't just let it be what it is. They must invest in—and wear—expensive wigs, human-hair wigs. Or they go into hormone replacement therapy that may keep their hair thick and shiny, but at a cost to their health. The ultimate goal for a Frenchwoman of a certain age is to look beautiful and young. 


I can't do it. I won't do whatever it takes to appear to be beautiful and young. But the thought of being stared at—with condescension or with pity or with hostility is too daunting.


The hair is the deciding factor. I make up my mind to admit that I just can't do it. We meet at the dining room table for lunch. Before I can say a word, he says, "You know, I don't really want to take that trip. I don't know what got into me."


I'm off the hook. I could, if I were mean-spirited, say, "Oh, what a shame. I was really looking forward to going to Paris." But I don't do that. I tell him instead of my own fears—and of my relief at the withdrawn invitation.


Then we began to discuss the attraction of the trip in the first place: he had seen it as a chance to get away together, away from our busy, work-filled, computer-dominated lives.


Over the years I had built up some air-mile points and never used them. The airline had just issued me a "use 'em or lose 'em" warning.


So we have set up a four-night stay at a downtown Toronto hotel. We will eat out every day. We will walk through some of Toronto's famous ravines, which we never seem to have time for, and go to a museum or two. We will arrive at the hotel with a list of restaurants we've been wanting to hit, a list of things we've never (or seldom) done or seen. It will be just the two of us together; no computers allowed. Five days and four nights of wandering our favourite city-with no passports, airplanes, or dress codes. It's a win-win solution.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor