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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Saying Good-Bye to a Former Self

I was a demon copy editor for years. I was the arbiter who had all the answers—usually the right ones but I bully-bluffed even if I wasn't sure. I used to say that copy editing was like grading papers except you didn't have to teach authors how they had gone wrong or even care whether they bothered to learn. You could just move that red pen along each line, reorganizing and correcting and generally feeling superior.


My freshman English professor was Dr. Pence, for whom we wrote an essay a week. In his grading, Dr. Pence would read until he came to an error (misspelling, typo, redundancy, whatever) at which point he would draw a fierce red line and write, "I stopped reading here!"--yes, including the exclamation point. It was up to the student to figure out the error, fix it, and proofread the rest of the essay with even greater care, because Dr. Pence would play this game for as long as it took. I tell you this so you can understand my training for editing copy.


There I was, all my life, sharp as a tack and alert to the slightest error. My husband, whose eye is equally sharp, and I would tear into our two newspapers every morning, gleefully finding egregious mistakes caused (usually) by the time pressures of the newspaper business.


Well, them days is gone forever. I've had hints that I was slipping, and I took every occurrence of slippage as a personal failure, a forecasting of the demise of my brain. Mind. Head.


But it was only when working on the manuscript of my own book that I realized the extent of the changes. In the last ten years I have worked hard on letting go. Isn't that what is required of all of us control-freak types? Does it not behoove us to let go? To stop clutching the security of complete control and just to let go. To be. To relax into what is. Into the moment. You know all these phrases as well as I do.


But an unexpected consequence of letting go is that by definition we are not in control of how the relaxation will occur. We might find ourselves no longer caring about something in which we once took great pride. Such as grammar and spelling.

It is not just that I no longer know whether nest egg is one word, two words, or hyphenated. The annoying thing is that it no longer matters to me. Oh, I haven't let go completely. I still am aware of apostrophes and spellings and the need to rewrite my repetitive sentence structures. And I can't imagine ever being relaxed about the difference between lie and lay. But compound words? I just don't care. I have no doubt that this puts me at the top of a slippery slope. Whee-ee.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Playing the Organ

I love to play the organ. Well, I once loved playing the organ, is more like it. I began studying when I was 12 or 13 with one of the nuns at St. Elizabeth's convent in Lafayette. My mother, who hated that hilly, half-hour drive being tailgated by giant trucks, nevertheless drove me every week to Lafayette, where, in a room sparsely furnished with just an organ and one extra chair, a gentle nun taught me about stops (like the Vox Humana) and pedals. In fact, though I can scarcely credit it, for a period of several months we drove there every day after school so I could practice, until we persuaded a local church to let me practice in our town.


What I loved about playing the organ was the foot pedals. Organ pedals are long, wooden versions of the piano keyboard. They are arranged just like black and white keys, though the foot pedals are unpainted oak. You play them with your feet just as you play the piano or organ keyboard with your fingers. G in the foot pedals bears the same relation to its neighbouring keys as does a keyboard G. But you play the pedals with your feet. To play a chromatic scale, you move your feet in a heel-toe-heel-toe movement. And when you are good (or at least well-rehearsed) your feet and legs dance beneath you while your two hands play their own part of the music.


I no longer play the organ, but my body remembers the intense concentration of coordinating two hands and two feet in the creation of rich, full sound.

Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Steam, Revisited

I wrote once about the joy of watching steam rise, an entertainment much more dynamic and specific than watching paint dry. In fact, they are not even in the same ballpark.


I wrote about pouring water from the kettle into my husband's Bodum pot and my green teapot and watching the steam curl lazily up into the kitchen air. Sinuously and sensuously the steam coiled, uncoiled, re-turned on itself, folded itself back into itself as moving water does. I wrote about it because it was a miracle and because—though I'd been making coffee and tea on that same tray in that same location for a year, I had never before seen the glory of the steam.


For several months I let myself be pulled into this magic every morning—one of those things you can put on your list of things to be grateful for.


And then—oh, what happened? We ate earlier or later or someone came to visit or—who knows? Whatever it was, something else caught my magpie attention and I forgot about the steam for a few months.


But when I went to look for it again, it wasn't there I poured the water, but no illuminated curling steam rose from either the coffeepot or the teapot. I was confused and disappointed, but, as with most disappointments, I got over it and put it out of my mind. If the memory of that magic happened to pop into my head again, I told myself to let it go. It was but a moment's passing fancy.


Several weeks ago I made our coffee and tea as usual and there, rising from the pots, were the two respective sensuous curlings of steam, so outstandingly beautiful that I couldn't have missed them. And it came to me: it was a question of light. It all depended on the angle of the sun, which slanted through the open door and lit the steam.


I ran to the calendar. It was June 10. And now I know that, just as the swallows return to Capistrano on the same day every year, so will the light hit the steam rising from our pots on June 10. I've enjoyed the experience now for two months, but I know that at some point it will disappear again—only, like the Moon and other sources of mystery, to return after the next long winter as my own private marker of returning magic.

Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What I Saw on May 1

To think that I saw it on Mulberry Street! Well, on the walk and subway ride to Dearborn Street, really. I took the long way to the subway today. If I remember to allow the time. I walk one or two subway stops beyond our local station for the exercise. But when I haven't allowed time for that, I walk briskly around the block before entering the station. This is my nod to the need for exercise.


Today there was a line-up of ten people at the fare booth. Either it was manned by the slowest clerk in the TTC (and they have some pretty slow ones: old guys on the verge of retirement) or, because it was May 1, everyone in the catchment area was buying a Metropass for the month. Exasperated, I finally slipped behind a hapless purchaser, dropped my ticket in the slot, and raced for the subway, which I could hear arriving. I missed it.


Oh yes, during my circuitous walk to the subway I couldn't help seeing that—this being May 1—the Toronto Construction Season has officially begun. The south side of Bloor Street was blocked off for what appears to be re-surfacing, which reduced the traffic from four lanes to two. The eastbound, downtown-headed drivers (who wouldn't be caught dead on public transit) were proceeding at a crawl, if at all. I sensed the air filling with road rage.


Ian Rankin kept me from noticing a single thing on the subway. I was lucky enough to find a seat, and my eyes didn't leave the page once during the trip.


Back on shank's mare, I felt my heart open toward the Asian family that runs the flower store on Broadview just below the Danforth. Their storage area is a shed/garage behind the shop. In order to bring out their seasonal flowers and plants they must push the tall, wheeled, plant-loaded racks over the gravel and mud of the driveway and onto Dearborn, then around the corner and past the coffee shop until they reach their store, at which point each rack has to be emptied and the flowerpots and buckets of cut flowers and flats of plants arranged on the wooden shelves in front of the shop. This morning five of them were at work—one of them a woman my age who was alternately tugging and pushing her much-too-heavy cart.


After the turn I saw a For Sale sign put out by a smart owner. The front yard of the house sports a large magnolia tree that is just now in full bloom, and the For Sale sign has miraculously appeared just as the tree is at its most magnificent. Coincidence? I think not.


Scylla abounds in many of the little gardens I pass, although my own is almost gone, already superseded by grape hyacinth and my lovely, vicious vinca.



Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Never Enough

Ain't it the truth!

There's never enough,

no matter how much there is.

Never enough love to fill the crater

created by the bomb blast that is childhood.


Lacking a sufficiency of love,

we stuff that hole with stuff—

but there's never enough.

Then, even as we ourselves blast holes

in the psyches of our offspring

(always inadvertently, of course),

we busily fill them

with whatever money can buy,

when what is really needed is time--

slow, quiet, devoted time,

for which we have no time.


Happy is she who finally learns

to fill her own crater,

who knows the meaning of "enough,"

who flips through lists and catalogs

and experiences nary a frivolous want

because her crater has been filled.

A friend speculated on what he would do and buy

if he were "really wealthy."

Me? I thought, I AM wealthy.

I need nothing.

Well, maybe one more pair of John Fluevog boots . . .



Copyright © 2105 Ann Tudor