Search This Blog

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Big Skies

As a grown-up I have always lived in cities. Not quite true, but close enough for jazz. For a little riffing on the topic. I always accept what is. Again, take this with a grain of salt—but it has more than a few grains of truth in it.


From Denver (full of big tall buildings, with the mountains to the West) I moved to Toronto. Here we are surrounded by condominiums and houses, and my view is obstructed in every direction. The morning sun clears the condo to the east no earlier than 11. The setting sun is blocked by the homes to the west of us, on the other side of the street, all of which have back decks overlooking a ravine. And there are no obstructions between those lovely wooden decks and the colour-streaked sky at the end of an afternoon. We have often committed the sin of covetousness because of those decks, that view.


At any rate, we seldom see the big sky. So when we are exposed to an expanse it lives in my memory as little else does these days.


Occasionally we go north of the city. Not very far, but north just the same. Once we are well established in the rhythms of Highway 400, the entire sky opens up, and I have never seen it when it was empty of clouds. The most beautiful, bountiful clouds float to the right and left of the car. This is a time when I am grateful that I gave up driving. Settled in the back seat of someone else's vehicle I can devote my attention to the clouds. They are the clouds of childhood, forming pigs, elephants (not much difference there, in cloud-language), chickens, cups, tables. Or just flat-bottomed, fluffy-topped collections of water that bring peace to the heart. The expanse of sky is endless. No one has mucked it up with tall buildings. It is just, even in this day and age when the goal seems to be to destroy anything natural—it is just sky, just clouds, just what it is.


Years ago my husband's aunt and uncle owned a cottage on the shore of Lake Ontario outside Bowmanville. Behind the house, across the road, was a bird preserve that was actually owned by the St. Mary's cement company, whose towers and docks were farther down the shore from the cottage. The rumour was that St. Mary's, holding on to that real estate until they needed it for expansion, was currying favour with environmentalists in the meantime by letting birds live rent-free on the land. Nonetheless, the lack of development across the road lent a quiet, rural character to the cottage.


For half a dozen summers we would spend a week or two at that cottage, just the two of us or sometimes with another couple. When you walked the 20 feet from the edge of the flagstone patio to the lakeshore, you saw sky. For 180 degrees there was only sky and water.


Others might mock our ideal vacation, which even I admit lacks excitement. Here's what we did: we sat in chairs on the flat stones of the patio and we looked at the lake. If the sun became too bright for our eyes we turned the chairs around. We read. We stood and walked to the water's edge (the lake too cold for swimming even in August) and we stared at the emotionless water and the flat blue sky. We read, we basked, and in the dome of the endless sky we healed from the onslaught of our city life.


We drove or cycled daily to the farmer's market at the far edge of Bowmanville and we bought local produce—corn, corn and tomatoes, corn and tomatoes and zucchini—and then we ate.


Big sky country is Montana. They clutch the title to their cowboy hearts. But big sky country is wherever you find it. Too long without its balm and we are all diminished.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Falling into This Life

What shall we expect as we fall into this life?

We can't foresee, having never known

(or else forgotten)

a universe of snowflake designs

or the reflection of trees and sky

in the puddle that collects in a pot-hole.


Nor can we predict,

as we fall, fall into life,

the pain of loss

assuaged, though only partly,

by gain of goodness seen

or sense of love

or simply beauty's insistent intrusion

into sadness.


The night of my sister's memorial service,

the gathering of friends at her house

(still "her" house)

streamed out the front door onto Lafayette Street

to gaze, faces raised,

at the cloud-filled Colorado sky.

The moon was bright as all get-out,

and the wind whipped those clouds

with an energy

that could only have been hers.


So there we were:

Beauty's bounty in the midst

of our loss,

making it better,

making it worse.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Little Warmth

My fingers go numb with October's first frost.

Where is life?

Why does my blood not flow

from heart to fingertips?

A long distance, to be sure, but still.


Isn't that how it usually works?


Well, I can kvetch all winter long

and it won't warm up my hands.

I need a new solution.


Movement, for example.

Jumping jacks.

I'll leap from the chair and bounce!

Or remain seated and flex the fingers

as I make a heart connection


I will live in my opening heart

and send live wires of sensed energy

coursing along the lines and pathways

of my body's ocean.


Or else, to bring a little warmth to my hands,

I'll steal it from my partner's heated back.

He'll never miss it,

with that fiery furnace burning in his chest.

I rest my hands, fingers spread,

on his hot skin

until his heat becomes my own.



Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor





Sunday, October 4, 2015

A New Thing I've Forgotten

When you attempt to overcome the effects of a sleepless night by downing a large coffee, you simply create a wide-eyed zombie. One night recently—for no reason at all, I tell you!—I forgot how to sleep. My eyes were closing as I gave up on a boring book and turned off the light at 9:30. At 10:15 I conceded that sleep was not happening, even though I had been drifting off while reading (note to self: choose a more interesting book next time).


Being fresh out of library books at my bedside, I went to my husband's lifetime collection of noir mysteries (he doesn't read them; he just collects them). I grabbed the first title I came across: a collection of Raymond Chandler's four "best" novels—and I began reading "The Big Sleep", which apparently I had never read.


An hour later, falling asleep in spite of my engagement with Philip Marlowe, I turned off the light again and closed my eyes. After some minutes of conscious breathing and other tricks, I did fall asleep.


When DinoVino came to bed sixty minutes later, I woke up. And that was when I really did forget how to sleep. I lay for an hour, doing my best "why me?, why now?" whine (and trying to drown that out by breathing, breathing). At 1:22 (aren't digital clocks great?) I put on my heavy robe and went to the media den where I immersed myself in "The Big Sleep": tough-guy talk, guns that go off (or maybe don't), smart PI who knows where all the bodies are buried.


An hour later I tried the bed again.


That's when I finally conceded that not only had I forgotten how to sleep but I might never re-learn it. Behind me was a lifetime of good sleeping. I have been the kind of sleeper who cries "insomnia!" if it takes longer than three minutes to drift off. And now it's gone. Maybe this is a memory thing. Maybe this forgetting is all of a piece with forgetting what week it is (which happened to me on Monday) or forgetting to send a thank-you note to a neighbour. Not to mention forgetting everything. Let's just leave it at that. Every. Thing.


I lay in bed, breathing, nudging my husband when he breathed too noisily, trying not to fret about—well, about all the worrying things there are in life, such as the state of the world. How could I sleep when boats full of migrants were capsizing? When war and brutality were forcing innocent victims to submit to coercive human traffickers in order to escape? When governments everywhere are sinking into the dark side? When commerce is replacing community? When children . . .  Oh. Now I see why I couldn't sleep. Too busy saving the world in my head.


Eventually I did fall asleep. Eventually I woke up, my head filled with cotton wool. Any of the previous day's thoughts were fully muffled by the kapok between my ears. My head was a stuffed animal.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor