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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memories Woven in Hair

Braided into my mind

(despite my girls' current looks: a short salon do

and the long not-so-blond but still-thick hair

pulled back in impatience)

are the hours spent coaxing tangles

with my fingers, making allowances for


those hours of bittersweet togetherness,

pain sweetened by the eventual clean sweep

of the brush through the cleared locks

ready to be halved along a center part

then neatly divided into three hanks

for the classic under-over twist of the braid.


This careful and loving attention

(though was it the girls who were loved

or the good-girl old-fashioned effect

of two little blue-eyed blondes with long braids?)

in either case this memory calls to mind

the generation before them:

my blue-eyed brunette sister,

only four years old,

whose abundant and willful curls

were untamable at the best of times

but hopeless when older brothers

who should have known better

decided to entangle those curls around

a fist-sized ball of burrs.


Scissors were the only remedy.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Extreme Talking

I find myself in the rut of saying "hate" and "love" to cover just about everything I encounter: a new cuisine, a new piece of music, a new book. Really, do I have such a poor command of the language that I have to accept this reductivism?


I hate winter. I hate cumin (though once I began toasting the seeds, that changed to "I love cumin"). I hate my hair. I hate TV. I hate Facebook.


Is this not a ridiculous way for an elder to speak? I sound like a 15-year-old. Surely there are more thoughtful ways to express my likes and dislikes.


Okay, what? "I am not fond of . . .?" Too prissy. I could go with loathe, detest, and abhor, but these aren't a solution, since they are still bald and unnuanced statements. What are my choices here? Well, I could change the sentence structure. "Winter is not my favourite season." "My hair lacks a certain something—like hair" (is that too subtle?). Yes, it's the direct subject-verb-object that gets me stuck with hate and love.


So, start the sentence with the item, not with "I". "Rude people are anathema to me." Perhaps a bit over the top. "Rude people are, unfortunately, to be found in all walks of life. Perhaps we should root out the rude!" See how much more creative that is than "I hate rude people"?


How about: "When rude people crowd me off the sidewalk, I will trip them and then step on their necks." Does that paint the picture? Of course, this isn't true. Here's what I actually do: when I step off the sidewalk to allow a pack of rude pedestrians to hog it, as they pass I murmur in my sweetest passive-aggressive way, "You're welcome!" Not as satisfying as stepping on the neck of an entitled pedestrian, but it won't get me arrested.


What about love? Oh, I love Toronto. I love eating out. I love cooking. Try the same approach and change the structure of the sentence: "Eating out too frequently is a very pleasant way to get fat." "The city of Toronto can sometimes best be experienced by staying home, but its ravines and parks are worth a visit." "When cooking for two, I often find myself in quiet meditation while, for example, removing the transparent skins from a bowl of cooked chickpeas" (though I really prefer to call them garbanzos, which seems more Mediterranean to me).


What else do I love? Not puppy dogs. But let me not hate them, either. How about: "My sister's golden, Chester, was one of the few dogs I found bearable, primarily because he had figured out how to spit out the peas when eating a bowl of stew." Or: "It always pleases me that other people walk dogs and scoop the poop so that I don't have to."


I love it when the facilitator calls for the last minute of a writing session. More creatively: "When last minute is called, my heart beats with relief and my stomach unclenches."


So I am no longer limited to "I hate …"  and "I love …". The new me will express likes and dislikes in thoughtful and nuanced sentences. Don't you just love that idea?



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Please list . . . "


Having found this line by chance (it was part of a movie ad posted alongside the rising escalator at Broadview subway station), I wrestled with it as I walked: "Please list," it said, "the things that you consider essential to your life." Even while knowing that I detest this sort of effort to pin me down, I couldn't turn away from the challenge.


Things? Essential to my life? I couldn't come up with even one. The parameters were vague. Are eyes, for example, "things"? I'd hate to do without my eyes, since reading is my joy. But eyes surely are not what the question is about.


Walking, I experienced that moment of one-sided auditory blankness that signifies the (temporary) death of one of my hearing aids. The blankness means that the machine has shut itself off, and this event is followed within a second by a chime that says, "Here I am turning myself on again." Overall, what I have are two hearing aids on the verge of giving up the ghost. Apparently six years is considered old age for hearing aids, a fact that makes them even pricier than I had thought at first.


The timing of the blankness and subsequent chime brought to my mind how useful those hearing aids are, so I was able to put them at the top of the list. What things do I see as essential to my life? Hearing aids.


Before that minor epiphany, however, my mind, grappling with the very idea of essential things, went to the kitchen and came up with the pastry blender, without which I'd find it difficult to make both guacamole and refried beans. But it becomes an "essential thing" only if I see cooking as an activity essential to my life. If I lived, say, at 2 Benvenuto Place, in one of the condo units above Scaramouche restaurant, I might live a very nice life without a pastry blender.


So put your own mind on this question. What are the "things" essential to your life? Do you have as much trouble with this as I do? People? Yes. I can list essential people, such as DinoVino WineScribe. But he—and other people—can hardly be labelled a "thing." Are we talking about consumer goods? Is faith a "thing"? Is love?


Things: a warm coat? But if I were to live in a place with perpetual sunshine, it wouldn't be essential. Shoes? Please, don't let me list Fluevogs as something essential to my life! To my self-esteem, perhaps, but not to my life.


I flounder with this issue. If not people or abstract traits, then what? "Please list the things you consider essential to your life." It's all about the search, isn't it? Joseph Campbell says the answer to everything is simply to immerse ourselves in life. I feel a need to view over and over those interviews he did with Bill Moyer—they are so rich with meaning that I can't absorb all that he says, and even less can I apply his wisdom to how I have lived (or haven't lived) or am (or am not) living my life. Immerse myself in my life. Engage with it. Oh dear, Joseph, give me a little time to take this up.


And I believe I've come to the end of all this seeking for essential things. One last stab at it: the roof over my head, to which I can happily give the name "home"? The comforts of my life? But what are they, if not people? What things do I consider essential to my life? I'll have to keep pondering.

Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Family Cycle

In olden days,

meeting cute had not yet been invented (confected).

All that mattered was the meeting.

One male of a certain age.

One female, ditto.

A certain comeliness or manner of speech

or perhaps just a question of pheromones.

Nothing made in Heaven;

Earth alone was the proper sphere.

No coup de foudre.

No bells or flashing lights.

Just a recognition that this will do.


And thus begins the coupledom, full

(as they all are) of ups and downs,

twists and turns,

despair and its opposite.

A passel of progeny (he calls them "sprouts"),

few of them prodigies, only one a true prodigal.

And the coupled couple endures

until they don't any longer

and the sprouts go on to fame and fortune or,

more accurately,

to lives as full as any of ups and downs,

twists and turns,

despair and its opposite.


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor