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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pure Nonsense

Pure anything is hard.

Adulteration creeps into almost everything I do.

One does.

You do.

No, it may be just me.


Strive as I might for "pure,"

I seldom attain it.

If I do come upon it momentarily

it is beyond words.

What does it feel like?

Like nothing.

Like expanding into the nothingness

of everything,

like floating in the peace

of the Universe.

No words can capture it,

no images replicate its serenity.


Pure. Pure nonsense.

Perhaps it's that exactly.

When I learn to spout pure nonsense

I will have uncovered the tellable secrets

of existence.

I will exude pure wisdom

through my pure nonsense.


Don't hold your breath for this

to happen.

I certainly won't.

The nonsense I can muster right now

is as wise as mairsie doats

and doesie doats

and little lambsie divee.


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Suitable Precautions

Those who take suitable precautions are those who, according to the risk-takers, miss out on the joys of spontaneity. That's what they say. It all depends, of course, on your definition of "suitable." One person's suitable precaution is another person's fussing over details.


As I write these words, the concrete images I come up with are travel images—no surprise I'm sure to those of you who have been paying attention. Just because I no longer travel doesn't mean I have become oblivious to what it entails. Were we to travel, for example, I can tell you for sure that my husband would have every road charted, every lodging booked well in advance, every scenic overlook graphed and figured into the day's timetable. His suitable precautions are even more obsessive than my own. Let me re-phrase. Because I recognize, at some level of my mind, the ludicrousness of restricting one's possibilities so severely, I back off completely from the idea of travel in the first place. There is, I am sure, a middle ground between the footloose, play-it-as-you-go kind of traveller and the obsessive scheduler. But I lack the ability to find and walk that middle ground, so my choice is to avoid entering the arena in the first place.


Suitable precautions: carry your umbrella because a 70 percent chance of rain was forecast and you will find (is this magic realism?) that the very act of lugging around that extra two pounds will be enough to move the clouds along without dispensing their moisture on the local gardens. Wearing your rain boots all day will bring about the same lack of rain. In such cases, have suitable precautions then become unsuitable, since no rain fell?


I believe that each of us has areas where we take "suitable precautions" to an extreme, and other areas where we don't bother with any precautions at all. Oh, brother! The lies embedded in that sentence are so obvious. Does the suitable precaution really vary from individual to individual, or is it only me? Does it vary according to circumstances or only according to mood? Or time of day? How can I say I believe that "each of us" does anything at all? I, who flee generalizations, having noticed that even within my own self they simply don't pertain?


So forget that business about each of us having areas where anything can be predicted. It's just not true.


I—and this is all I can speak for—vary. A suitable precaution in the kitchen might involve—for a special dinner party—a thorough advance reading of all the chosen recipes. So do I, an experienced amateur cook, check through each recipe in advance? Not on your life. This is why, on a Saturday afternoon, I suddenly realize that the main dish I've chosen for that night's dinner party calls for two cups of chicken stock—and we have none left in the freezer nor any boxed in foil on the pantry shelf.


Such lack of suitable precaution leads me often to the position of any quarterback when it's fourth down and ten: I punt. And that, I can assure you, I do very well. In fact, the thrill I get from a successful punt is exactly why, in the kitchen, I take risks instead of suitable precautions.



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor




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Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Farm-Wife

There was a time in my life (or so I delude myself) when I might have made a good farm-wife. A time when I bought bushels of produce from farm stands and stood over steaming kettles to seal jams and jellies and pickles—they brimming with harvest flavours, I beaming with pride.


Today the very thought leaves me cold. Leaves me tired, more like.


I am enamoured of Not Far from the Tree, a local group of volunteers who harvest fruits and nuts from trees whose owners can't or won't do it. The bounty is divided this way: one third to the owner of the tree, one third to food banks or soup kitchens, and one third to the volunteers, who take home their apricots and make beautiful pies to show on Twitter.


I want to join them. I want to climb, with or without a ladder, to the top of cherry trees, crabapple trees, apricot trees and fill my basket again and again with ripe fruit. Then I'll come home and make jams and chutneys and preserves.


This dream sits in one part of my mind. But the rest of my mind is more realistic: the very thought of all that harvesting and canning wears me out. My days as a farm wife—even an imaginary one—are over.


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ball Fringe

Here's what I thought I knew: autumn is my favourite season. Here's what I found out yesterday: spring might be my new favourite season.


I have never been drawn to the freshness of spring, the exuberant overgrowth, the enthusiasm, the "here I AM" of spring. Oh, I've liked forsythia, species tulips, lilacs. But for the most part, spring has left me cold (and in Toronto, that has been literally true—our one day of spring, usually toward the end of May, is as chilly as late winter).


So what has changed? Yesterday morning I went for a walk. Whether it is the case every year or whether this is some unusual phenomenon or whether I've just never noticed it—I cannot say. But here's what I saw. The trees are still winter-bare as they meet the sky. Squirrel nests in their dead-leaf splendour stud the notches. Limbs lead to branches that lead to twigs, and all of them are reaching, reaching. (I do know I don't notice this much in winter because I face winter with my head down, chin tucked in, huddled.)


But yesterday's almost-warm air allowed me to walk erect, gazing at what rose above me. And here's what I saw: at the end of each twig was a ball. The trees were heavily dotted with little balls, all the same size on any given tree, but varying from pea-sized to marble-sized depending on the type of tree and/or the tree's position with respect to the sun.


I couldn't help but smile. Each tree was adorned with ball fringe, a now-outdated fashion trim that my mother used liberally, often on curtains but also on clothing for her daughters. Think of the tiny swinging balls around the brim of a gaucho's hat and you'll know what ball fringe is.


Or just look at the trees. But look quickly. Yesterday they were perfect examples. Today's trees I haven't seen yet, but I know that within a few days the ball-looking buds will burst into leaf-shape and things will never be the same—for another year.


The buds will become leaves, which will enlarge until they obscure the raw skeletons of the trees. The naked essence will be clothed in green—all very well and natural, of course, but no longer the stark truth of winter trees festooned, in this particular moment of spring, with ball fringe. Quick! Look! Today! Yesterday!



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor