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Sunday, December 31, 2017

List of Favourite Books Read in 2017

Ann Tudor's List of Favourite Books Read in 2017


Steven Sherrill    The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time

Frank Conroy       Body and Soul

Louise Penny       A Great Reckoning

Jane Gardam        The Flight of the Maidens

Lee Child          Night School

Mark Pryor         The Paris Librarian

Martin Walker      Fatal Pursuit

G. Hendricks       The Fifth Rule of Ten

Christopher Fowler Strange Tide (Bryant & May)

Tessa Hadley       Clever Girl

Ian Hamilton       The Couturier of Milan

Alexander Risen    Unearthed

Asle Skredderberget The Oslo Conspiracy

Carol O'Connell    Blind Sight

Anne Holt          No Echo

E. J. Copperman    Written Off

Colin Cotterill    The Coroner's Lunch

Cara Black         Murder on the Champ de Mars

Val McDermid       Out of Bounds

Anne Lamott        Traveling Mercies

Gary Barwin        Yiddish for Pirates

Peter Gethers      My Mother's Kitchen

Marina Semple      Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Freeman Wills Croft The Cask

Kari Hart Hemmings The Descendants

Katherine Pancol   The Slow Waltz of Turtles

J. D. Vance        Hillbilly Elegy

Chris Oold         The Killing Bay

Michel Bussi       Black Water Lilies

Kate Atkinson      Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Steve Burrows      A Shimmer of Hummingbirds

Richard Carson     Taming Your Gremlin

G. Hendricks       The 4th Rule of Ten

Margaret Millar    Collected Millar

Sheila Kohler      Once We Were Sisters

Peter Heller       Celine

Andrew Cartmel     The Viniyl Detective

John Fariow        Perish the Day

Margaret Maron     Fugitive Colors

Eleanor R. Barraclough  Beyond the Northlands

Alexander McCall Smith  My Italian Steamshovel

Elena Lappin       What Language Do I Dream In?

Molly Keane        Young Entry

Ann Patchett       Commonwealth

Charlotte Gill     Eating Dirt

Naoki Higashida    The Reason I Jump

E. O. Chirivici    The Book of Mirrors

Patrick deWitt     Under Majordomo Minor

Eliot Pattison     Skeleton God

Hope Jahren        Lab Girl

Delia Ephron       Siracusa

Richard Ford       Between Them

Jan Wong           Apron Strings

Muriel Spark       Memento Mori

Josephine Tey      Brat Farrar

Lucy Ribchester    The Amber Shadows

Mark Pryor         he Sorbonne Affair

Margaret Forster   Diary of an Ordinary Woman

Leif G. W. Persson The Dying Detective

Philip Pullman     Clockwork

Matthew Sullivan   Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Michael Finkel     The Stranger in the Woods

Gabrielle Zevin    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Beaverton      Glorious and or Free

Margery Allingham  My Friend Mr. Campion

Mario Giordano     Auntie Poldi & the Sicilian Lions

G. Hendricks       The Second Rule of Ten

Claire Fuller      Swimming Lessons

G. Hendricks       The Third Rule of Ten

Jess Kidd          Himself

Harlan Coben       Don't Let Go

Elizabeth Strout   Anything Is Possible

Robert Harris      Conclave

Sheena Kamal       The Lost Ones

Christopher Fowler Wild Chamber (Bryant & May)

Margaret Atwood    Angel Cat (graphic novel)

Rachel Joyce       The Music Shop



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Knowing Now

How can we trust what we know,

what we think we know,

what we once knew?

The knowing dissipates.

Facts disappear into the fabled

mists of memory.

Mischievous mind churns facts into butter.

Feelings diffuse like moonlight

through rippled glass.

If we can't count on facts,

can't rely on feelings (since both, facts and feelings alike, are filtered through fading memory)

then what can we trust?


Why, as usual, nothing but the now.

Get used to it.

Accept the new now reality.

Just be here.

It's the only way through.

Remember this,

if you remember nothing else.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Present

Gifts are pigs in a poke

and must be received with joy

because they may be the manifestation of love.

Maybe not.

Maybe a gift just means

'tis the season and you're on my list.

But on the off chance that the impetus

is love,

accept the present.

The odds are good that it's love.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Annual Christmas Reminder

I send out this piece every year in mid-December, mainly as a reminder to myself. (You might want to admire the way I reduce my own list of things-to-do by recycling this Scene from the Journey instead of writing a new one.) Here's the message:



This is such a time of list-making for me. The list I made this morning includes "make lists," proving that the high-tension time is well on its way. So I decided to make a new list for myself. Here it is:

CALM DOWN. If it doesn't get done, will the world end? Don't get frantic about trifles (or truffles, either, though I wouldn't mind having one right now).

SIMPLIFY. I envision a Christmas dinner made up of X number of dishes. Well, how terrible would it be if I served X minus 1? Or X minus 2? Or even X minus 3? (But I suppose Chinese take-out is out of the question.)


Bring an OPEN HEART to every encounter.

GIVE to those who are less fortunate. Whether it's time or money that I give, and whether it's a lot or a little, giving will help everyone, including me.

And as a gift to all of you, I offer this prayer from the Dalai Lama:

May the poor find wealth,
those weak with sorrow find joy.
May the forlorn find new hope,
constant happiness, and prosperity.
May the frightened cease to be afraid
and those bound be free.
May the weak find power and
may their hearts join in friendship.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Making Room for Small Beauties

Run. Run. Go faster. Don't stop for anything. Make no detours. Run straight ahead or you'll never get it all done.


This is how I lived. Once, during a brief respite, I managed to notice the small beauties that my then-calm eye chanced upon. I remember that I enjoyed noticing them.


But somehow I re-forgot how to slow down and I re-lost the ability to notice. Oh, I often put it on my calendar

and added it to my to-do list: "Slow down. Stop doing. Stop running. Remember to notice."


A friend and I (both do-ers of the first order) were talking to another friend, whom we hadn't seen for months. We asked her how she spent her days. "Oh," she said. "I read. I do a little yoga. I take a nap. I sit. Sometimes I meditate. Or think. Sometimes, yes, I just sit and ponder."


I was tired of running. As soon as I finished off my to-do list for that day, I began to slow down. I started waiting for small-beauty moments, since small beauties in our lives are really all we have.


Now my pace is deliberately and consciously slower. Keep your eyes peeled for the new me as I meander along the sidewalks of life, making room for small beauties.




Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Being Carried

I didn't know, for most of my life,

that I was being carried.

It was I,

I used to whine,

who did the heavy lifting,

the shifting, the getting done, the making.

But looking back I see how wrong I was.

Without the broad wings beneath me,

there's no way I, alone, could have survived.

Even as I carried, I was carried.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 19, 2017


Because the rising of the Moon is blocked

every night

by the giant condo east of us,

actually seeing a Moonrise is beyond me.

Only if I were to take myself

to an east-facing beach—

unobstructed sky in all directions—

only then could I calmly wait

for her to appear.


On an ordinary night

I can begin to glimpse her any time after 10:45

(about the time, twelve hours later,

that the Sun peeks around that same condo).


No, for me the most reliable Moon sightings

are from the bedroom window

when I awaken at 1:30

and find her floodlighting the city

with her invitation

to rise and dance to the tune of the Moon.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Light Comes In

Whoa! The light comes in!

Open your eyes.

Or not.

The thing about light is that we can see it

even when our eyes are closed.

Try it.

Sit in darkness, eyes closed.

Open the blinds or turn on the light, eyes closed.

You can discern light through those thin lids—

and this knowledge might make all the difference

in your life.

Unconscious, asleep, unseeing—

know that even our self-imposed blinders

can't really ban the light.

And when we slit our eyes like a toddler

playing hide-and-seek

we are shocked back into awareness

of what has been there all along.

The light comes in.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 5, 2017


Peeling is a strong metaphor. We humans are often compared to onions, aren't we? Peel off one layer of obsessions or guilt or anger and another equally pernicious layer awaits. Peel away that anxiety or hurt or fear and you are confronted with yet another layer to acknowledge and work through.


But peeling is more than a metaphor. Peeling is a real, physical act that usually—in my mind at least—involves food. Pile up those peelings and feed them to your compost. Peel away the unwanted and you find what you desire. Peeling is a health measure (your body wouldn't like you to eat the hard shell of the avocado) or not (don't peel potatoes, for example, because most of the nutrients are in or just under the skin).


How do we peel? Let me count the ways. With a knife. With a peeler. With our fingers. Three ways.


Some things are fun to peel, others feel more like work. I've always felt that peeling potatoes is both onerous and endless. Thankless, even. But when I actually break down the task I realize that it takes only moments to peel a potato. I think my dislike of peeling potatoes is a holdover from my youth, when I would be enlisted to peel potatoes for a family meal: 8 people, 14 or 15 potatoes.(We really really liked mashed potatoes.) That was a lot of potatoes to peel—and probably with a dull peeler.


Now, however, I cook for two. Peeling potatoes with a swivel-blade peeler is quick and easy. I peel and quarter them well in advance, then put them in a pot of cold water to wait their time on the stove.


But why am I talking about peeling potatoes (or carrots, which fall into the same dull category). I want to talk about sensuous peeling.


First, there are tomatoes and peaches. I link these because the sensuality of peeling is the same. Take a ripe field tomato (or a ripe peach) and a sharp paring knife. Start at the blossom end, not the stem end. Lift a little flap with the tip of your knife. Now, holding the little flap between your thumb and the knife blade, gently pull the peeling down the side of the fruit. See how smoothly it peels away, leaving behind a soft, vulnerable swath of flesh. Use the edge of the knife to start another strip. Keep peeling gently and smoothly until the whole tomato, the whole peach, is glistening and open. Almost quivering, even. This is just about the most fun you can have with an apron on.


Faced with a bushel, or even half a bushel, of tomatoes or peaches, you will probably resort to the old boiling-water method of peeling. But this is not without its own sensual pleasure, if you think about the satisfaction of slipping the whole skin off at once. Slippery and wet.


To peel an avocado, start with a nicely ripe specimen (it should just give when you press it gently near the top with your thumb). Cut it in half through the stem end and around the bottom and up again. Separate the two halves. Notice the color: the same color as a kitchen appliance from the 50s, isn't it? See that big fat shiny seed in the middle? Cradle the seeded half in one hand and whack a large-ish knife into the seed. Give the knife a twist and the seed will release. Knock it off into the sink.


Now comes the fun part. I assume you've already washed your hands. You can slice or dice the pale green flesh while it sits in its hard shell, or you can leave each half uncut. In either case, to remove the peel, run your thumb between the flesh and the hard skin. Feel the loosening as you continue all around the fruit. Lift out the green flesh (or dump it out, if it's been sliced or diced). Do it again for the other half. (I admit that you can do this part with a spoon, but where's the sensuality in that?) Suck your thumb to enjoy the extra cook's share that is your bonus. Then wash your hands again and eat your avocado with a little salt and a squeeze of lemon.




Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Frost May Fall on the Diamond


frost turns the parsnips sweet

and signals the season

for the boys of October,

who endured the summer heat

for the promise of cool,




Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Stopped in My Tracks by Spring Robins

Strolling to the subway one May morning

(no more breakneck speed for me)

I was stopped in my tracks

by robins.

Two of them, fuelled

by the raging hormones of spring,

flew past me,

two feet in front of my nose

as if I were just another harmless, inanimate object

to be ignored.


Straight as a die they flew

in that uniquely robin-esque rush

to reach there

from here.


One after the other—

literally, one was after the other—

predictably the male after the female

in a dash for life, more life,

acting on that built-in urge to make more robins—

quick, before it is too late.


Lusting robins flew a bee-line

(a robin-line)

toward the fulfillment of the nest.

That they passed right under my nose

made me pause for gratitude.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Juggling Time

At some point in our journey

we cease to juggle time.

It happens toward the end,

when change comes thundering over the hills

and has its way with us.

Yes, at some juncture where the change cycle


what we have considered to be us

(our selves, our lives),

at that point we deliberately stop

juggling it

and instead rest our hands in our lap

and cradle time which,

if it exists at all,

deserves finally

the soft, slow loving

we show to all that we cherish.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Questions and Answers

I've always been one for the glib answer.

The philosopher studies the question,

ponders it, seeks the right, deep, answer.

If I seek any answer at all

(and I admit it: being human I do seek),

I'll take the first one that comes along.


Not true!

You've got to watch me like a hawk

to keep those quick untruths

out of the permanent record.


So. Not the first answer.

But any answer that suits.

That's it in a nutshell.

My answers, seldom unassailable,

can be attacked from all directions.

But I don't care.

To suit me,

an answer just has to get me through:

through the day, through the dark night

(actual or of the soul).

An answer just has to shield me


from the slings and arrows, etc.


And when my defenses are breached,

I'll be off to seek the next answer.

For me, answers are written in sand,

not stone.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Seeds, Encroaching

Some people have indoor shoes and outdoor shoes,

a distinction I admire

and can honour in the abstract.

But in reality I blur the identities.

I wear my Birks out to the garden

(just for a moment, you understand,

not for serious gardening).

But even that moment is long enough

for the maple keys

to wedge into the crevices

of the tread and then,

when I'm inside again,

to unwedge themselves,

determined if misguided,

and fall to the floor

perhaps imagining the hardwood

to be a fertile surface

that will nourish a fledgling tree

and as I pick up these randomly dropped seeds

I see in my mind's eye

the maple tree that might grow,

if I let it,

tall and strong

in the middle of my living room.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Something Isn't Right

Something isn't right. Well, that's for damn sure. When I said—at some weak moment in the past—that I wanted to chronicle the stages (i.e., the innumerable moments) of aging, I pretended to be serious but I truly thought there wouldn't be all that much to say. Huh.


In the space of 48 hours I encountered more examples than I want to admit of a less-than-sharp brain. There were no two ways about it, no "other perspective" to make it all bearable.


Here is the collection of recent idiocies. Oh, I shouldn't be pejorative (shouldn't say "shouldn't", either). All right. Not current idiocies but lapses. (As if I am expecting to bounce back to normal some day soon. Ha.)


Left the oven on again. I'd only turned it on to thaw and warm my last piece of homemade GF pita bread. Took the flatbread out when it was warm and never thought about turning off the 400 degree oven. Eventually DinoVino discovered it. Well, it made the kitchen toasty warm.


I start with that one because anyone can leave an oven on, right? Well, try this one. I earned a living for a long time (but a long time ago) as a copy editor and proof reader. Admittedly my skills haven't been put to a lot of use lately, but still . . . I sent out a poem to 150 people—a pretty little poem but a very short one. It had a typo ("you" instead of "your"). In a six-line poem I couldn't see a typo. Now, I didn't apply my true proof- reading eye, which I still know how to do—and if I had I would have caught it. But I didn't and I didn't. It took DinoVino WineScribe, an hour after I hit Send, to say, "Did you know you had a typo in line 3?" (Well, of course I didn't freakin' know. If I'd known I would have corrected it! But that's a different direction—something along the lines of marital communication.)


In response to that mailing of a poem, I got a reply from a friend I hadn't heard from in a long time, saying she liked the poem. (So far, no one but my husband has mentioned the typo; what tolerant friends I have.) Anyway, I answered this email saying that I miss hearing her voice in our writing group and miss hearing the next stages of the novel she's working on. And I sent it off. And three seconds later I looked at the name again. It was not Shelley my novel-writing friend but the other Shelly, my beading and artist friend, who had written me. I fired off an apology immediately (what must she have thought?) and she answered right back with a funny note. No harm done, except to my ego, and it's about time I stopped feeding it anyway, right?


We gave a party for twelve on Saturday evening. At the end I took orders for coffee and tea. There were four abstentions, four decafs, and four herbal teas. I went to the tea cabinet and took down my newest product from Say Tea: ginger and lemon oolong. Did you catch that? It was an oolong, not an herbal tea. One little part of my mind knew that, but it was overpowered by its twin on the other side of my mind. Oh, I thought, it's just oolong, not black tea, and it has herbals in it (real ginger, real lemon) so it will be all right. In the light of day the next morning I couldn't believe I had so lightly dismissed my friends' requests for herbal tea.


And the most recent one: For Monday night supper I was doing a quick stir-fry to use up the fresh vegetables that needed to be eaten. I would serve it on a quinoa and red-rice mixture that I'd cooked the day before and that would only need to be reheated.


Picture me at the stove. Quinoa mixture on one burner, skillet for stir-fry right beside it. I covered the stir-fry for three or four minutes to cook the harder vegetables (the sweet potato, for example). And then I smelled burning, so I turned the heat down under the stir-fry, lifted the lid and stirred it, and added a couple tablespoons of water.


Lid back on. A few minutes later I smelled burning, so I did the same thing again. By now the stir-fry is ready. So I get the plates and take the lid off the pan of grains which are, as you've surely guessed, burned black on the bottom.


Can you believe it? The entire brain is crumbling, crumb by bloomin' crumb. A little piece falls off in the check-the-right-pan area and you gradually learn to adjust to that, becoming increasingly alert to burning smells. Because you can't repair the crumbled bits, you begin to adjust. But even as that area is under control, crumbs fall from other brain areas (tiny crumbs, to be sure, but each crumb is of great importance to the proper functioning of what used to be your mind). So the written skills diminish just as you are remembering to check the oven. And just as you remember to proofread even tiny poems, the grains heating right beside you turn black on the bottom.


This chronicle is no longer amusing.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Grammar in These Changing Times

I was thinking recently of how much I've let go of in the field of grammar. I can count on my fingers (no toes needed) the grammar mistakes that can still get me going. Partly this is because my own failing memory (we'll call it memory in order to avoid calling it something else) has made me forget what I once knew. And partly it's because I no longer care the way I used to.


So what do I still care about? I care about its and it's.

Lie and lay. In a recent Toronto Star crossword (a poor excuse for a crossword, I admit, but there it is in my lap, so I solve it), the clue was "recline", the answer had three letters. To recline = to lie, right? So I wrote in l-i-e. But for the first time in my experience, the crossword developer made an egregious error, since the word that fit was "lay", not "lie". ReclineD, he could have clued us. Then it would have been correct to use "lay." But no. When the crossword puzzle maker sets ungrammatical clues, the end (of something, anyway) must be near.


Homonyms, particularly led. L-e-d, past tense of to lead. (All roads lead to Rome, but mine led me down the garden path.) The confusion here is with the metal "lead", a noun, which is spelled l-e-a-d but pronounced like l-e-d. Oh, I know English is difficult. And I know—lordy, do I know—the children aren't being taught grammar—nor were their teachers during their own school days 30 years ago, so the very possibility of a universal return to teaching grammar in the curriculum has disappeared. It is only the elite private schools that now teach these basics, and this will further and forever distinguish these kids from the hoi polloi.


I recently saw a comment about the decline in educational standards. These changes, deliberately implemented some 50 years ago, have led (l-e-d) to an ignorant electorate, helping to ensure the rise of such politicians as Donald Drumph. To be generous, I'll attribute it to the law of unforeseen, unintended consequences.


It's a depressing scenario. And I'm obviously contributing to it by dropping my own standards. On the weekend I heard both my grandsons (19 and 12, respectively), say "me and him went out" or "me and Paul set up a new screen." I didn't say a word.

On another occasion a granddaughter said something was "one of the only" somethings. Would you listen to yourself, I wanted to say? But again, I didn't say a word.


Do I really want to interrupt one of those rare conversations in order to point out mistakes? Since grammar is not being taught in schools, whole concepts (for example, the idea of subject and object) are foreign to the children. It is only through family conversation that they will learn to speak well, as their parents and grandparents speak. Maybe I should have interrupted those conversations after all.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ways to Find a Way

One time I saw the damp grass spring upright again after I had walked on it. One time I watched the continuous ant caravans, travelling in both directions, as they walked the phone-wire leading from the maple tree to our house. (I didn't like to speculate on where exactly they were headed in or near the house.)


I cite these events as examples of who I am now, because all of this is recent. So much of life passed without my seeing. I know it must be possible to foster awareness in children (how else did Annie Dillard, for example, evolve at such a young age?). But it was not fostered in me, nor did I foster it—being still totally unaware myself—in my own young children. And thus do we lose our connection with Nature. Those who will forge it must do so later, through will and determination. Oops. Those are not the right words, for all it really takes is that moment of awakening, and that short sharp shift in attention that leads to worlds previously unimaginable.


Here's what I want to do with the rest of my life, now that you ask: I want to be aware of the grass springing up after I walk on it, the leaves swirling in ecstatic wind-powered dances, the ants on safari along my wire.


What will I be able to see from my window once the cold weather makes it unlikely that I will sit on a flat, lawn-surrounded rock and watch the grass spring to life? Well, even within the confines of the house, I will be able to notice: I will see the coiling steam rise from the coffeepot. Thrill to dancing dust motes. Be conscious of all the smells of my life. Hear the silence as well as the gentle sounds of our old house.


When I hear the leaf blower or the siren or the jackhammer, although what I want to hear is anything less raucous, I will not rail and denounce. For I know (but had forgotten for a time) that it is possible to change those noises we term earsplitting and offensive—to change them by adding my own voice to the mix, toning along with the grumble of the idling truck. Thus are annoyances changed to harmony. And we all know the world needs fewer of the former and more of the latter. I used to do this regularly, but at some point I stopped making harmony and reverted to ranting. It's time to go back to what I once knew.


On one of the 24 floors of the condo behind our house lives a musician. During the summer s/he practices with the sliding doors open to the outside, and the glissandos of the flute ripple through the quadrangle of the condo courtyard. I say flute, but like many woodwind players s/he play both flute and clarinet, and sometimes I have to listen closely, as the sound shift and distort with the wind.


Here is my favourite summer moment: it is 3 p.m. and the sun is just about to leave our back deck for the day and emerge at the front of the house. I am in the backyard removing laundry from the line I string in a triangle around our little space. And the flute player is practicing. Sometimes s/he works on technical skills, playing scales and arpeggios (flutes are big on arpeggios). Other times I hear the flute part of a symphonic opus. It is never not interesting. I stand in the warm sun, smelling my air-dried sheets, and I listen to the sweet notes of a well-played transverse flute. Bliss.

Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Miles to Go . . .

When there's still some undefinable


but absolutely non-negotiable

distance to go,

you can't lose heart.


Not true.

Of course you can.

You can drop out, give up the race.

But for the sake of argument

(and joy, and grandchildren,

children, friends, and life itself)

for all those sakes,

let's assume I was right the first time:

you cannot lose heart.


Take courage any way you can:

Bake a pie with the fruit of the day.

Read a book,

preferably one recommended

by a trusted friend,

or one you've read before,

with no mean surprises to make you change your mind

about keeping on.


Find the music you love and listen to it,


or in the company of a similarly-minded audience.


Simplest of all,

seek out a tree

whose rough bark reminds you

of the pattern in everything.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
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