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Monday, February 27, 2017

Fret Not

Fret not over what you have forgot.

The passing of the years is not your doing

and there is no blame to you for that.

Nor for losing the memory of those passed years.

(One might wonder why it is that

what one does remember are the sins--

both omission and comomission.

What perverse mind keeps hold of these

and loses the moments of joy?)


The forgotten times are past,

so let them go

then fill the space

with this week's cozy feelings,

this month's friendly encounters,

today's bursts of bright orange and red.


Hang on to what now is,

not what once was.

Or better still, forget all that

(and if you know anything it is how to forget)

and simply observe as it flows past.

Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Livin' on a Houseboat, and Other Vacation Ideas

We used to vacation with another Toronto couple. For several years we would spend a week together at DinoVino's aunt's cottage in Bowmanville. The cottage was right on Lake Ontario, with a vista that was all horizon, all lake, grey water meeting grey sky, or blue water meeting blue sky.


We have a picture from those days. It shows four Muskoka chairs ranged over the large concrete patio. Each chair faces a different direction. The fourth chair, belonging to the photographer, is empty. The occupants of the other three chairs are reading. No one can see anyone else. There is no interaction. There is just solitary reading by the shore of Lake Ontario.


This is how all four of us loved to vacation. Mealtimes might involve corn-eating contests and so forth, but during non-eating hours, each of us lived in a little globe of beautiful silence by the water.


But we took another vacation together, too, one year. We rented a houseboat and took a trip on the Rideau Canal, through and around Big Rideau Lake.


Imagine two couples in their mid-50s. One couple—we'll call them A and B--has done camping and canoeing in Algonquin Park. The other couple (they will be C and D) has done a lot of reading. One of the men (A) sailed a bit some 30 years ago. The other man (C) can't swim, gets seasick, and cannot sleep when there is any motion at all--including the (to some) soporific rocking of an anchored boat.


So A becomes the de facto skipper of this vessel. B and D, the wives-of, are designated as crew. C does the worrying for the group and performs whatever joe-jobs we assign to him. A knows as much about houseboats as I know about nuclear power plants (there's actually one of those near that Bowmanville cottage). But A is game, persistent, and a good learner, in addition to being a mathematician.


We meander all around Big Rideau Lake. We use the lock system, tying up our old rented houseboat next to zillion-dollar yachts and pretending that we too have just motored up the coast from Florida.


Most of our overnight anchorings are at public docks provided around the lake. You angle your craft in, with a lot of prayers, you tie up front and back (fore and aft?), and you set the hibachi on the dock and grill some veggies for dinner.


One night we decided to tie up at an uninhabited wooded area along the lake shore, but the water was too deep for our anchor to catch. We had horrible thoughts of drifting away from the mooring and crashing into the shore, stoving in the hull and causing us to sink to our deaths in the depths.


Since we couldn't anchor to the bottom of the lake, perhaps we could attach the boat to some of the trees at the edge of the island. But we couldn't get close enough to catch hold of a branch. Pilot A manoeuvred forward and backward, but nothing got us close enough.


There were two solutions. We could abandon the idea and go find another mooring, or we could try to swim the distance to the island with rope in hand, and tie it up that way. A was the best swimmer. He got in the water, put the end of the rope between his teeth, and began a good solid prep-school crawl. It didn't take long to discover that the rope was not long enough to reach the trees.


Obviously, we had to get the boat closer. I will let you imagine the encouragement, the opinions, the suggestions offered to A by the peanut gallery still on the boat. Do this. Try that.


He began swimming again, but much more vigorously. This time, his goal was not just to carry the line to the trees, but, using only the strength of his solid crawl stroke, to haul the enormous houseboat and its three passengers close enough to shore so that he could tie up.


We have a snapshot of him in the water, trying to tow a houseboat.


He never made it. Having no choice but to admit defeat, he came back to the boat. We regrouped, rethought, and decided that what we really wanted was to spend the night at a public dock again. So A started the thumping engines, we got out the maps, and we eventually found a docking for the night.


We gave A an extra ration of brandy after dinner in recognition of his extraordinary attempt to tow a houseboat.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Pits

It's the pits, we used to say.

At 15 whatever did we know of pits?

The pits came later.


Tiger-traps dug deep and studded with

poisoned poles,

cleverly disguised to entice

the tiger.

We all risk falling into the pit.


But wait.

What I mean to say is more specific and

(had you guessed this?)

more personal.

You think you know the pits

from years of contemplating those venomed stakes,

years of anticipating pits to come.

Forget it.

When it comes to pits you ain't seen nothin' yet.


When nothing and no one stands

between you and it (the pit)

except what intermittent moxie

you can muster,

when voids and endgames sneak beneath your every barrier,

only then can you say



it's the pits.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Angels and Us

Angels and us? Perhaps we shouldn't have been set loose on this planet without supervision. Well, what do I know? Maybe the angels are supervising us—but if so they're doing a poor job of it, judging by the evidence. I imagine them observing us, making note of foibles and foolish acts, meannesses and cruelty and all those behaviours that we like to absolve ourselves of by saying they are "human nature." Nothing we can do, Boss. It's in my nature to enslave, torture, steal from, and oppress others. Just gotta accept it.


Truly helpful angels might have nudged us to change our nature. Oh, you say, they have. Perhaps all the goodness of the earth is due to their ministrations. The problem is that there are too many of us and too few of them. While they're putting out a fire in one spot, a dozen humans are setting metaphorical fires elsewhere.


So more angels, please (do these guys even have the capacity to reproduce? I think not.) In terms of numbers of angels to watch over us, what we see (feel, know) is what we get.


Looking at the big picture can give us a different perspective, because the big picture turns the unthinkably ugly into patterns of ineffable beauty. From the highest vantage point (either a satellite or the angel's view) even the worst devastation we have wrought on the surface of our blue planet can be seen as beauty-- regular, patterned, colourful.


Maybe this is why the angels don't step in more often. From their heavenly heights our destruction looks like amusing sandcastles at the beach.


If we become wise enough to ask them for help, what do we ask for? A set of modicums is all:

a modicum of love

a modicum of comfort

enough food to grow on

enough land to grow food on

a modicum of tolerance

the same of curiosity

and enough change to keep us all on our toes

and ward off complacency.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor