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Sunday, September 29, 2013


Anger didn't surface much chez nous when I was young. Very few emotions were actually encouraged (I can't think of any approved ones, at the moment) but anger was particularly banished.


This doesn't mean that anger didn't exist in our family. Look at any family—or any family of six noisy children and two clueless adults—and you'll know that anger is always floating around. But overt anger was not allowed. 


Never, in the 18 years I lived at home (plus the remaining 17 years before my parents both died) never did I see or hear my parents fight. (Whooops! "Never" alert! I know this must be an exaggeration.) But my inference was that good people didn't argue, didn't get mad at each other, didn't confront one another.


We children did know anger when we heard it. Here's how my mother, Eileen, showed her anger. When Eileen retired to the kitchen and the kitchen began to shake and rumble with the sounds of slammed cupboard doors, pots banged onto the stove and lids onto pots, bowls and utensils whacked onto the work surface, oven door clanged shut—then we knew to stay out of the kitchen, because Eileen was on the warpath. So you see, right there I've made a liar of myself. Irish Eileen DID get angry. But she just never told anyone about it. As far as I know, she never said to our father, Myron, "You treat me like a workhorse. I'm a workhorse in the poorhouse! I need . . . I need . . . I need . . ." Instead, Eileen just went to the kitchen and banged her pots and pans. And to my knowledge, no husband or child ever said to her, "What's wrong?"


That is all I ever learned about anger during my childhood. It took me a long, long time to discover that anger was not forbidden. A long time to recognize it in myself and (the hardest part of all) to learn what to do with it. I learned to confront when necessary, and to let it go when I could—after acknowledging it in the very first place.


Recently, within the space of five minutes both anger and guilt came leaping over the fence to land on top of me. Well, well, I thought, look at this. What is more surprising? The fact that these two breached the defenses and landed here at the same time, or the fact that you recognized them right away? And what do you do with them now that they're here?


The anger was occasioned by an acquaintance whom I find difficult to talk to. I made a comment, and then she triggered my anger by behaving the way she always behaves. Thus, my anger was brought on by my own actions. (Isn't there a theory that insanity is when you do the same thing over and over and expect to get a different result?) I left myself open to her comments and then expected her to respond differently. Well, insanity or not, it still made me angry. So that was the anger that hit me.


The guilt was a double-guilt. I became aware of loud and lively birdsong nearby and immediately felt guilty that I had failed to educate my children about the natural world. I'm not a great birder at all, but I did know, at one time, a few bird calls beyond the cardinal and the chickadee, and I never took the children birding to teach them even the little that I knew. Guilt. There had recently been a walk-in-High-Park tour on the topic of the passerine birds. It was at 10:30 on a Sunday morning, and I could have gone. I thought about going. But I had a ticket for the opera that afternoon and it all just seemed too complicated and rushed. Also, I have attended a couple of birding walks before and have felt awkward and unwelcome. I didn't go to the High Park bird walk, and I felt guilty about having missed it. Thus I was hit by a double-bird kind of guilt. Two guilts with one bird? Two birds with one guilt?


There I was, feeling my anger and guilt. I gave them both a thought, briefly; I recognized them both. I felt them in my body (isn't that what you're supposed to do?) and then I just said, "Begone!" or words to that effect, and I let go of it all. Anger gone. Guilt gone. The rest of the day was just a walk in the park.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cat and Fat Squirrel

Cat sees Fat Squirrel through the window.


Fat Squirrel: Nyah, nyah, nyah! You can't get me! You're locked in that house!


--Dumb squirrel, why would I want to get you? I'm in a warm house, my food is in my bowl, a lap is only a meow away. And here you are hunting in the middle of winter for acorns that you will then bury and never find again! Scattershot pantries! What a way to live.


--Hey! Don't put me down. I don't have your soft life. No one fills food bowls for me. And it's my tiny brain that tells me to plant the nuts. Unfortunately, it's too tiny to hold the memory of where they are so I must dig randomly. What can I say? I'm a squirrel. But surely you must admire my bushy tail. See me twitch it! See? See?


--Don't be vulgar, you animal. At least make an effort to be refined. If you want to improve your life, I urge you to start watching cats. Use cats as your models. If you succeed at imitating a cat, maybe some misguided soul will take you in and start filling your dish with nuts. Hah! You should be so lucky!


Cat stretches, turns her back on Fat Squirrel, and walks into the kitchen to see what new treasure has been deposited in her bowl.


Fat Squirrel, in his endless digging for previously buried nuts, hits the jackpot and makes off with one of my most expensive tulip bulbs.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Blue Sky, Smilin' at Me

I was walking down our street last May, headed for the subway. As I began to cross to the other side (mid-block, as usual) I twisted my head to check for traffic and here's what I saw: a patch of sky so deep a blue, so smooth and even, that I thought at first it was a painted backdrop. Perhaps I've been seeing too much opera and theater, but I saw it as a painted screen of an unimaginable depth of color. Good sense kicked in immediately and I knew it was indeed the sky, just the plain old sky revealed at the end of our street, framed by trees with emerging leaves.


Several questions arise: Why did I continue on my way instead of stopping to breathe in the sight of that blue sky? Was this an unusual day for skies? Besides the sky being cloudless, was some other meteorological event taking place? Or was it simply the normal sky, and I had never truly seen it before, even though I have crossed that street and turned my head at the same spot for over 31 years?


Tell me, indeed, why the sky is blue.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Deja Vu But Always New

A lot of what I do is déjà vu (all over again, as Yogi Berra used to say). When I leave the house I go to the subway or walk into High Park or take the down-hill, up-hill sidewalk to Bloor West Village, my neighbourhood shopping area. Whichever of these three paths I take, I've been doing it for almost 33 years. I've seen it all.


Or have I? As I walked to the Village yesterday I resolved to see people and things in a different way. The critical eye, always at the fore, has taken up too much space. It was time to soften its judgment and look with a curious and open eye. It is often said that if you are nervous about, say, speaking before an audience, all you have to do is imagine your audience members naked and your nervousness will disappear. I've never tried this, but yesterday I carried it one step further. Instead of noticing this woman's hat, whether beautiful or ugly, or that man's shabby or natty coat, I focused on seeing beyond the clothes and beyond the body (naked or not). My intention was to see the troubled or peaceful or compassionate or distraught soul within the body. So many sad eyes, so many downturned mouths made me aware of the burdens we hide in our hearts. I saw more sorrow than joy on that walk.


I also discovered that in my head I carry on a continuous dialogue with my surroundings, animate or inanimate. I passed a father pushing year-old twins in a tandem stroller, one seat behind the other. The baby at the back was sound asleep. But the little front-sitting one didn't miss a thing. Just as we came together, something on the side of a building caught his eye and he pulled his head around and then, as the stroller continued past his point of interest, he raised his chin and tilted his head back to keep it in view. I, wearing sheepskin hat covered with a hood and all held together with a large, looped-around muffler, was drawn to the baby's exposed neck as he craned his head. "Baby, baby," I said to him, "get a scarf. Protect your neck. At least put your chin down and don't expose yourself so freely to the wind."


Well, he didn't listen or care, and that was all right. Maybe he's not as sensitive to the cold as I am.


The pigeons accumulated on the sidewalk around a local hamburger joint and I had to pick my way through them, saying, "Shoo, pigeon. Take to the air, pigeon. Move, move—I'm coming through." Like the baby, they paid me no mind, although they did roll out of the way as I walked through the flock.


"Oh, ladies," I said to the two women dressed to the nines for shopping, European-style, "I hope you are happy to be living here in Toronto even though it is not your original home. I hope you don't find it oppressive to live in the midst of another language, another culture. And you do look snazzy. I sometimes wish I had the desire to dress up like that just to run up to the Village for a dozen eggs."


"Don't be impatient," I remind the driver who honked when the car ahead of him hesitated for half a second after the light turned green.


Walking to the Village reminds me of community even though I don't actually speak to anyone. I was going to say, "I don't speak to a soul," but maybe that's what my silent commentary is: speaking to souls.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Courage is to do it no matter how afraid you are.

And that's all I have to say about courage,

Except to admit that I don't have much.

It must have been in short supply

   the day I was born.

I was scanted. Given not even the bare minimum

   with which to make my way.

And yet I did.

I made my way from there to here

(please don't ask me to do it again).

I held the fort,

steered the creaky, leaky bark through storms.

I crossed the desert,

braved the forests' beasts—

And landed where I am.


Was it courage that carried me through?

Well, if my original definition is true

(and not just the product of a self-justifying mind),

then I can say that courage brought me here.

Stubbornness, necessity, the lack of other options—

all these pushed and pulled me

    through the worst of it.

And now?

Now is the time of looking back,

of giving spades their true  name,

of stripping off the story to reveal the bones

that rattle from the past.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor