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Sunday, December 29, 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; one of the party-goers had opened the door allowing Louie to run out. So there was no one available who knew how to control Louie. 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, December 22, 2013

A Winter Morning with My Eyes Wide Open

My eyes wide open

(for they are not always open, I assure you)

I approach my local subway entrance.


Today, instead of railing in my mind

about the cars illegally stopped

(not parked, officer; just stopped

for a few minutes)

in front of the subway entrance and its neighbour,

the day-care center,

instead of railing, I say,

I simply note, eyes open.


The mother leaves the driver's seat

and opens the back door of the car,

to extract a colourful round ball:

her winter-dressed toddler.


She places him/her on the icy ground

then stretches to reach the giant backpack

that accompanies all of today's children.


As I pass the car

the mother and bundled toddler

hand in hand

wrestle themselves

over the rough and icy

windrow of snow that lines the curb,

a gift from our road-clearing snow plows.

And as they struggle

and as I pass,

I hear the mother's soft voice reassuring

her puffy ball of humanity:

"and now you put your other foot right there . . .

and then we'll be inside and you can play with . . ."


And then they are behind me and I vow,

in light of such rewards,

to aim for eyes wide open all my days.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sound of Winter


When you walk in the woods in winter,

hold your arms away from you sides,

lest the swish

of your sleeves


the silence of snow.



Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 8, 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, December 1, 2013

A Human Pace

I feel didactic today, so I will give a lesson. "Slowing down" is the topic. Oh, you've already heard that lecture? And it doesn't apply to you? You are the exception, are you? The one person in North America who doesn't need to slow down? Or is it that you can't afford to stop spinning because you might fall over. Whatever it is, just listen.


I myself have listened for years to wiser people telling me to slow down. Either directly (as in "Slow, down, fer pete's sake; I can't walk that fast") or indirectly (as in, "When I walked in the park the other day I saw three new trees I hadn't noticed before, and glimpsed two foxes and one coyote, and I heard the migrating song sparrows. What did YOU see in the park?") I ignored both approaches, the direct and the indirect, until the day came when everything changed. And on that day I began to drop extraneous activities and to relish doing less.


But I still took off like a bat out of hell when my feet hit the pavement. I walk fast. I've always walked fast. So last week, as I hastened toward the Village for shopping, I caught myself walking fast; I thought "Wow! I'm really pushing. I wonder what it would feel like to slow down." And so I did. I consciously reduced my speed. (Of course, I moved off to the slow-lane edge of the sidewalk so as not to impede all those speed demons in the impromptu marathon I'd been part of.)


I slowed down and I actually felt my whole body, my whole self—go "ka-chunk." It felt as if I had come together for the first time, as if I had finally found myself after steaming along ahead of myself for all those years. It was beautiful, feeling at one with myself.


Now, I know how busy you are. I look at the lives of my children and my neighbours, and I can sense the urgency, the "I'm-running-out-of-time" feeling you project. So I won't suggest that you stop racing. But I do offer you a suggestion. The next time you find yourself walking as if the devil himself were nipping at your heels, take a moment and consciously slow down. From one step to the next, change speed. And notice what happens to your body. Can you feel the difference? Make note of it.


And then, because I know you are busybusybusy, you can resume your usual speed, if you have to, in order to get the shopping done, the walk over with, whatever it is that pushes you at that moment. Go ahead. Revert to your "normal" setting. But carry in your body the feeling you had when you consciously slowed down. Remember how it felt to approach life at a moderate, natural pace—i.e., one that is in step with Nature. And know that you can return to that feeling any time you want, and you can grow it in gradually so that one day a measured pace will be your default setting, and you will use the racing demon speed only in exceptional circumstances.


If you already know all this, then please just turn the page.


Copyright 2013 Ann Tudor