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Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Marginal Note in a Library Book

You can write as many marginal notes as you want in your personally owned copy of a book, if that's what you want to do. But you may not, Charlie, write notes in a library copy—not even if you write in pencil. It isn't yours.


I recently read a library copy of Reza Aslan's Zealot, a biographical study of the historical Jesus, which is full of mind-expanding takes on life in Galilee, Jerusalem, Judah, among the Romans and the temple priests. Halfway through the book I came upon a penciled comment by a former reader of this library copy. With so much controversial information to comment on, this reader chose to scold the author for not capitalizing the word "earth" in a particular paragraph. "Earth is our planet and must be capitalized," he wrote, sideways, in the margin. He had made no comment at all on the wondrous historical facts, the innovative interpretations of the story, the author's amazingly detailed and controversial ideas. No. All of that was completely acceptable to this reader. But "earth" without a capital E? Shame on the author and his editor!


Although I still frown on this book defacer's obvious sense of entitlement, I must admit I'm intrigued by his priorities. If he hadn't felt free to comment on the lack of a capital E, I would never have known this strange duck even existed.


Nonetheless, I will repeat the lesson: write your marginalia in your own books if you must, but never write in publicly owned books. Please.

Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A New Bottle for the Old Whine

There was something I wanted to write about. Not two minutes ago I was thinking of it. Actually, there were two things: music and this other thing. Not two minutes ago, just before I sat down at the desk. Now all I remember is "music." But that wasn't the real thing; that was just a back-up, and I'd rather write about the other thing, if I could remember it.


For the most part I am accepting of this age-related memory problem. I've learned to compensate in so many ways. For example, I make interminable lists of the tiniest things I need to do each day—that's if I want to get anything done. (Some days I don't care.) But otherwise, once I have made the bed, answered email, and thought about the day's meals—once all that is done, in my mind I am totally free, with nothing on the agenda. Free to read all day if I want. So if the orchids want to be watered or the laundry wants to make it into the washing machine or a particular email wants to reach its target—then I'd better have a list.


That's one compensatory method. Another, for different circumstances, is the reciting of a song or rhythmic pattern when I go from one floor of the house to another for a particular errand. As I head to the basement I chant: "clothes in the DRYer, can of tomAtoes, clothes in the DRYer, can of tomAtoes." If I fail to establish this before I head down the steps, then I find myself standing in the basement at a loss. This happened just yesterday, in fact. I stood between the pantry doorway and the washing machine and wondered why on earth I had come to the basement. I stood for a full minute, brain spinning, before I could recall that the purpose for this basement trip was to find a new sponge to lay out with the cleaning supplies for my house-cleaning help that morning. And it DID come to me.


The third technique I use is to swallow my pride and rely on DinoVino WineScribe. This man has a mind like a steel trap (mine is, and has been for years, a steel sieve). His memory for dates is phenomenal. Among our friends he is the uncontested arbiter of arcane information, much of which (baseball stats, wine characteristics, and grape varieties) is well beyond me even if I weren't experiencing age-related memory problems. We all, but I especially, place a heavy burden on him because he is so reliable. Lately he has once or twice failed to live up to the expectations that he has inadvertently created over the years. If I think I had a hard time giving up my expectations of myself, I can only imagine how difficult it will be for him. For the present, because he is six years younger than I, he still serves as the custodian of our family memories since 1978.


Oh yes. Feelings. I'm supposed to reveal (all good authors do this) how I feel about losing so much of the cognition that I have always taken for granted. Well, here's the thing: I feel relieved. By letting go of my lifetime of high expectations in this regard, it is much easier to accept who I am beneath the mask.


And the umpire's shout of "PLAY BALL!" signals the start of this whole new ballgame.


Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sowing and Reaping

So easy to castigate

the men who freely avail themselves

of the world's bounty.

Contempt arises.

Scorn fills our hearts

(what a misuse of the heart's capacity).


But then we widen the lens of our viewing

and acknowledge our own part in this business

of reaping without sowing.

Too late, perhaps, for a one-to-one reckoning

(I sow, I tend, I reap).

But still plenty of time to sow, sow, sow

in recompense (restitution?) for

what we have already, undeservedly, reaped.

Let the sowing begin.



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Social Darwinism

I've started (well, being me, I've started, then stopped, then started again) doing a morning walk. On days when I pretend I don't have time for a longer one, I go around an expanded block for about fifteen minutes. But on other days I go into High Park for a brisk workout (my kind of brisk; no one else's) with my cute walking sticks. I see few pedestrians or runners at 6:45 a.m., which surprises me, but whole fleets of bike riders. A lot of these are the Lycra boys with the tight bike shorts and tight shirts emblazoned with logos for bikes, tires, and accessories. These racers usually travel in packs around and around the "track" of the upper part of High Park.


Walking fast in High Park is very different from walking to enjoy the park, obviously. But I do observe things even as I speed-walk my way along the path. I walked north on the last leg of my trip that day, having made the turn around the Grenadier Restaurant, when I noticed an oncoming cyclist. He was a tall, lanky guy, on an equally tall bike to accommodate his long legs. Instead of being bent over the handlebars, the way the wienie-bike racers usually ride, he was bolt upright on the seat.


And he was riding no-hands. This feat always amazes and frightens me. I see a no-hands rider and I think immediately of a pebble or a stone that would deflect his wheel in the blink of an eye. Still, I figure these riders (the no-hands guys are usually under sixteen) have confidence in themselves and their bikes, and they watch the road for little obstacles that might throw them arse-over-teakettle.


This lanky rider was old enough to know better. But he didn't. Exemplifying to an exquisite degree the theory of Social Darwinism, he was not simply riding no-hands. He was texting as he rode.



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 3, 2016


I study maps whenever I come across them,

though I don't go so far as to seek them out.

I study the countries,

determined to put them once and for all in their places.

But each time I encounter a map

I am astounded once again

by the changing nature of the world.


Was Iraq always where I saw it yesterday?

And Turkey?

Was Ethiopia ever and always so large?


The map in my mind's eye is completely skewed.

No country in my head

bears any relation to the maps I study.

Have I always been so resistant to reality?


Are the mapmakers rearranging the boundaries

at random?

On purpose?

To confuse me?

To confound peacemakers and negotiators?


Are maps simply a conspiratorial product

created by and for the arms dealers?


Oh, where are the maps of yesteryear,

those colourful playthings of my childhood?



Copyright © 2016 Ann Tudor