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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Smooth Brain Syndrome

Four women lunched on sushi. The conversation flowed and arced as it will among friends of long standing. One woman, however, was silent. She wanted to add her two cents' worth to this thread and that. But her brain had changed, had become a smooth, round ball of a brain. Once it had bristled with hooks valleys and thorn-like projections that snagged her thoughts and her memories, allowing her access to authors, titles, ideas, notions, and anecdotes as they passed by her brain.


Now, something was wrong. There were no thorns, no hooks. The outside of her brain was slippery-smooth, dimpled here and there with the holes left where hooks had been. You can't snag a thought with a dimple. So she remained silent.


Do brain-hooks re-grow? If she were to apply an expensive snake-oil directly to the surface of her brain would she be able to snag her thoughts as they floated by?  Do you know how to spell "fat chance"?



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ancient Drains

Let me dig into the depths as the plumbers delve into my front garden in order to reveal, eight feet below the surface, the broken clay of our ancient drains.


This is a disaster. Mess and muck. Back-up in the basement drain. Holes dug into the basement's concrete as well as in the garden. Not to mention the expense. Holy cow! The expense!


But I am an optimist. A Pollyanna, some have said (but they didn't know me very well). Let me re-phrase: I can give the appearance, at times, of being an optimist, and this is one of those times.


Over and over I have complained about my front garden that (totally by accident) contains almost 20 invasive species—as well as an impenetrable network of maple-tree roots. This spring the right-hand side of the yard was totally out of control. The oregano was springing into the area I like to reserve for the lovage. The lemon balm was engulfing the little sage plants. The wild violets (and I SWEAR that they weren't my fault; I never planted a one of them) enjoyed their two days of romantic blooms and were spreading through the entire plot. Ditto the lily of the valley. In the meantime, the bee-balm and the sundrop primroses, which I adore, were cowering in terror. And I haven't even mentioned the garlic chives, which, unlike their well-mannered clumps of chive cousins, shoot their little black seeds into the universe then wave their flat green shoots to the sky and dare me to root them out.


And when I tried to correct any of this in the past, even one square foot of the spreading tangle, I was defeated by the roots of the maple tree, which stopped my trowel at every thrust.


Now, enter the plumbers, that pair of strong-backed Romanians who arrive to do the dirty work for their sweet-talking employers. Abetted by axes and knives in addition to their shovels, they dig (for two full days) a pit 5 x 2 feet and 8 feet deep, slicing through roots, dumping garlic chives and oregano and violets on the tarp lying in the neighbours' driveway. The plants are soon smothered by the mound of dirt (80 cubic feet) that covers them.


I am no ninny. Having experienced drain repairs in other sections of the garden over the last 30 years, I was ready for the devastation. As soon as the sweet-talking bosses left the premises bearing that expensive contract, I took my trusty trowel and dug up as many of the bee-balm, sage, and sundrop plants as I could, heeling them into a big box of soil. They sat in the shade and waited during the two days of digging.


The workers left, having piled that ugly, sandy earth back on top of the repaired drain. I shovelled six inches of sandy soil off the top of the entire area and replaced it with topsoil and manure. Then I replanted my favourites.


For the first time ever, shovelling and planting were a joy. There wasn't a root in sight! My trowel cut through the new soil like a hot knife through butter. Now my sundrop, sage, and bee balm are nicely planted in fresh root-free earth. The oregano is recovering from having been squashed flat by workmen's boots. The lovage survived nicely. The garden is beautiful, if a bit sparse, and will become even more so as the months go by.


There must have been a cheaper way to clear out that tangled mess of plants, but it's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good.



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I have not had a butterfly brain my entire life, of that I'm quite sure. It began . . . well, some little time ago, I can't tell you how long ago, precisely because I have a butterfly brain. But it's been cocooning for a while and is now emerging, full-blown and superbly colourful, to affect every aspect of my life.


Last week I was getting a head cold. Its onset was slow and subtle, and I wasn't always aware of it. I was standing beside the kitchen counter and I remembered (not for the first time) that I wanted to begin using my neti pot to forestall the cold.


I moved, for some forgotten purpose that was important at the time, the three steps across the kitchen to the sink. And there I thought: what was that idea I just had? For my mind was a complete blank. The term "neti pot" was gone, along with the entire thread that had led me to it. Often, when we forget something we can retrace our mind's steps, the inconsequential interior monologue that preceded and followed the forgotten idea. This did not happen. "Usual" it might have been once, but the blankness that filled my brain was telling me that a new normal was on its way.


We have all seen butterflies on the move. One wonders, watching their flight, how they ever make it down to Mexico for their winter vacation. Two wing-beats forward, two more off to the right, two up, two down, two backwards, then three forward. Net gain: six inches. We have to assume an evolutionary advantage to this flight pattern: by its unpredictable movements the butterfly obviously foils all predators. If a deer moved that way, no hunter would ever fell a deer!


For a butterfly, this erratic motion makes sense. But for a brain? For a brain it is less than efficient. My brain now, in this new normal, has the hint of an idea. But before I can even look at it, the brain has moved on—two wing-beats below, two wing-beats to the left—and I have no inkling at all what I was going to say.


Conversation often consists of slight, friendly interruptions, and in olden days that was fine. If an interruption disrupted my thought-line, I would just come back to it later. Now, however, an interruption means the destruction of any previous idea. It is gone forever. Not that that is a major loss to civilization, but I find it personally annoying. Not to mention terrifying.


In the particular case of the neti pot, here's what happened. My mind a blank, as I said, I then moved to the far side of the stove for some purpose, and from that position the words "neti pot" popped into my head. The blank brain had re-booted itself. I began reciting "neti pot, neti pot, neti pot" as I raced to the counter where this had all started, grabbed pen and paper, and printed out "neti pot" in bold letters.


Writing it down is the only answer.



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why I Don't Get Much Done


When I work in that chair, here's what happens. I gather what I think I need, primarily the manuscript, a pen, and the pale green cotton blanket. I sit down and cover my legs with the blanket, which is hard to do because I put my legs on the footstool and the blanket has to be spread over my feet and legs. Oops. Forgot to get my glasses. I take the blanket off. Move my legs from the footstool. Stand up. Get the classes. And while I'm up I pull the phone closer so I won't have to stretch for it if it rings while I'm working. If I ever start working.


I sit down again. Tug the blanket over my legs. Oops. I forgot to bring a glass of water to drink while I am working. I remove the blanket, put my feet on the floor, set the manuscript on the footstool along with the pen. I untangle my feet from the blanket and slip on my old Birkenstocks that fit me so loosely they are an accident waiting to happen. In the kitchen I pour myself a glass of water, which I carry back to my chair. I re-settle myself in the chair, stepping over the blanket so as not to trip on it. Pull the blanket up to cover the legs; put on the glasses; arrange a manuscript section and the pen in my lap. At last I'm ready to work.


Is it naptime yet?



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor