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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Between the Ears

Between the ears lies the silence of the mind, when I can achieve it. And when I can, when the moments of grace

allow me to sit in my body without the usual accompaniment of mind's meandering chatter (mind can't bear to be left out!)--when a moment like that comes I wallow in the peace of silence. At those times I tingle with the recognition that my body senses what is beyond the mind, and in such sensing offers me a glimpse of other worlds. I have no words to tell you more than this, except to say that it is clear that the body is the key.


Glorious as these moments are they do not last. Mind sooner or later asserts itself and reverts to making lists or planning meals. Just the same, here's what remains: I know the source of the forbidden fruit.

Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A New Stage of Incompetence

I have officially joined the ranks of the incompetent. I managed for a long time to maintain the fiction that I could handle things, but no more. On August 6 I happened to look at the calendar I carry in my wallet. That was when I saw it: on August 3, I had had an appointment with Oona for a haircut, and I had completely missed it.


In my defense, let me remind you that this was the summer of the open-heart surgery in May, and that our summer activities were consequently and deliberately curtailed to the point of non-existence—which is to say, we did nothing all summer long. And when you are doing nothing and going nowhere, there's not much need to consult the walk-around calendar.


Ideally, whenever I make an appointment while away from the house, using my little wallet calendar, I make it a point to record the appointment immediately at home on the big family calendar. But I had forgotten. And (see above reasons) I didn't open my walk-around calendar once between May and August.


I could accept an isolated mistake: I goofed. But this is the third time in two years that I have missed an appointment with Oona. Perhaps it's just that the appointments become less and less important as I have less and less hair, but we won't make that part of today's discussion. Besides, if I don't see Oona regularly I will soon look like a tonsured monk whose back hair has grown to a straggly un-holy mess.


So now I have had to ask Oona to put me on the call list to remind me of my next appointment. This, to me, is the height of irresponsibility. It means I can no longer keep on top of my events of life, and I see it as a very real downgrade.


However, when I asked Oona to put me on the "to call" list—thinking, oh, what a come-down--she told me that 95 percent of her customers ask that she remind them.


I guess, in addition to thinking of myself as officially incompetent, I must also acknowledge that I have finally joined the mainstream.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Full Life

We sit frequently in our front alcove, whose windows overlook the neighbourhood. When summer arrives we abandon that station for the backyard table and there is no more news of neighbours. Summer news concerns the local cardinal couple, the jays, the free-roaming cats, and the raccoon family.


How does one define a full life? I was made to examine this question recently. Is your life full if you are so busy that you cannot see what goes on around you? Or is your life full if you see what goes on around you and proceed to create elaborate stories about what you see? You be the judge.


As we enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of wine in the alcove recently, we noticed several women arriving at the house of our across-the-street neighbour, whom I'll call Carol. The women wore business attire--suits and high heels—and carried briefcases in addition to their purses. We commented on the possible significance of these arrivals. It was unusual for Carol to put on a week-night party, if this was indeed a party.


Eating crackers and cheese with our wine, we watched other women arrive, singly or in pairs or small groups. Some obviously came from the subway, others by car. They ranged in age from thirty-ish to early fifties, so the common denominator was hard to ascertain. Not, of course, that it was any of our business.


But we did wonder what was happening. A meeting? A baby shower? A birthday? Carol had celebrated her own Big Birthday half a year ago, so it wasn't a birthday party for her. And we wondered where her husband, let's call him Peter, was spending the evening. Had he been gently evicted for the occasion, with a request to stay away until after 10:15?


More women arrived. Louie, the blond six-month-old cockapoo that is one of the lights of Carol's life, was ecstatic, obviously racing to the door at each new knock. Oh, no! As we watched, someone flung the door too wide and Louie escaped onto the porch. He greeted the newest arrival, a tall woman in heels, who fussed over him as one does with a friend's dog, and then he darted down the steps and ran loose around the front yard. Carol was nowhere in sight, so no one who knew how to control Louie was around. The tall woman made the ineffectual restraining movements that one makes when one is not a dog-lover or dog-owner and one is wearing high heels. Louie took her dashes at him to be a new game, and he responded enthusiastically, rushing toward her then slipping away easily when she tried to corral him. The tall woman still thought she had a chance to gather him in without calling for the cavalry. Louie was in heaven, leading her farther and farther away from the porch, the yard, the house.


When she realized she had been outfoxed by a fluffy ball of lightning, she ran (as best one can run in high heels) to the house and called for help. Four women rushed out the door, one of them Carol, who called Louie in her best puppy-schooling voice. He came. Everyone went inside, but first Carol drew the baby-gate across the top of the steps so that Louie could greet the new arrivals but could not escape into the yard.


Women were still arriving. We hadn't been counting, but there must have been two dozen or more by now. Several arrived by cab. And then an SUV pulled up and seemed to park in the middle of the street. After a longish wait, a woman opened the passenger-side door. Apparently she was attending the party/meeting but the driver was not. As she disembarked, Peter came in view, walking toward the house from the subway, dressed in suit and tie. Was he going to attend the party? Peter and thirty women? But no. He leaned over to talk to the driver of the SUV. They chatted for a few minutes, while her passenger went up the walkway toward the house. And then Peter walked around the front of the car and got in. The SUV quietly disappeared. A mystery. Well, a mystery to us, because we didn't know anything at all. Nor, as I have pointed out, was it any of our business.


Finally we left the alcove and went about our own lives.


The next morning, as we settled ourselves in that same alcove to read the morning papers, my husband wondered if Carol's guests had perhaps spent the night. We imagined the briefcases as overnight cases and pictured the women in night clothes sleeping on Carol's living room floor, their suits neatly hanging from doorknobs. We eventually had to abandon this line of thought, for, unless we had arrived too late to see a mass exodus, no one left the house but the family that lived there: Carol, Peter, and their two children.


You can see the urgency of my question: Do we need to get a life, since we obviously have way too much time on our hands? Or are we filling our lives deliciously with imaginings based on what we see around us?


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, June 9, 2013

At That Precise Moment

At the sound of the tone—at that precise moment—it will be one o'clock. In the afternoon, of course, which is actually thirteen o'clock. We civilians call it one o'clock because in our minds there is no confusion between the two; at the other one o'clock we are sound asleep in our beds.


Fiction: this could be the start of a political dystopia, with Big Brother monitoring the sleep habits of the citizenry, along with every other element of their existence. Do I want to start writing a dystopia? No.


Memoir: this could be a story of arriving in Canada and discovering the CBC, which at one o'clock every single day afforded me (and still does) the opportunity to re-set my watch to the national standard. How accommodating. How civilized. No wonder I cottoned so quickly to CBC Radio. This was 34 years ago, of course, before the death by a thousand cuts that have reduced it to a barebones mockery of a public service. As far as I'm concerned, you can consign CBC-TV to whatever broadcasting hell exists. But keep your cotton-pickin' paws off my CBC Radio.


What's the title of this piece? "At That Precise Moment." Oh, I remember. I tried and discarded fiction. Then I tried the rubric "memoir," which turned into a present-day rant. Let's see if I can summon up a more appropriate memoir item: "At that precise moment . . ." No, nothing there. I'll try again: "At that precise moment . . ." Nope.


What else do I know how to write? Kitchen episodes. At the precise moment when the recipe and the timer agree that I should remove the cookies from the oven, they have just turned black on the bottom. Or: . . . the cookies have only just begun to firm up and removing them at that precise moment will be a disaster. Well, a small-scale disaster. Nothing on the order of an earthquake or total climate change or the mega-quarry. (Get away from those rant-worthy disasters quickly and return to your cookies!)


Yes, a small kitchen disaster, in our house, is not even really a disaster because 1) I can usually find a way to turn Disaster into Delicious and 2) if I fail in that attempt, my husband will eat it anyway because he hates to see food wasted. (So do I, but I have my limits; he has none. He won't eat an apple voluntarily unless I quarter it and serve it with a nice full-fat cheese, as dessert. Unless, that is, the apple in question is wrinkled and on the verge of being too old for human consumption, in which case he will voluntarily eat it for lunch and repeat, enthusiastically, "Delicious!" What a guy.)


Where was I? If, for me, writing is predicated on digression, then I must continually re-orient myself. Perhaps I lead my life the same way? Those cookies, for example. Did they burn while I was digressing my attention toward a Sudoku, or while I was indulging in my new obsession with learning how to play the blues scale on the piano? If my whole life is a digression, how will I ever find the main thread?


My embroidered digressions disguise the actual theme of my life. The theme of my life? Is there one, or is it all embroidery?



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Catch a Few Winks

Well, throw a few my way and I'll try. I'm not great at catching, I must admit, tending to flinch when something comes speeding my way. I attribute this to my older brother's propensity, when we were teens, to thrust a basketball at my face, saying, "Think fast!" I never did my best thinking with a ball coming at me.


Back to those winks. Just a few. As I say, toss them (underhand) my way and I'll do my best to catch them. But no blinks! Blinks are twice the weight of winks, and I doubt I could handle them. Don't put your blinkers on (either kind: the ones that give you a blinkered view and the kind that signal which way your car is turning). So, just a few winks—either eye will do—and no blinks, got it? If I manage to catch them, I'll return them to you posthaste so you can catch a few winks of your own.


Have a good nap.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor