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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Toddler Who Lives Across the Street

The father (a hulking kind of guy) came down the driveway to the sidewalk. And then I noticed the baby, the 20-month-old, trailing well behind him. When he reached the sidewalk he began walking toward the subway while the baby stood at the top of the sloping driveway.

 

I wondered about the dynamic playing out here. Was he so hands-off that he would leave the little one to make her own way? What baby deserves that? (I do tend to be judgmental where babies are concerned.) But he stopped and turned around to watch her progress down the slope. Tiny and inexperienced as she was, she got sucked in by the impetus of going downhill and in no time at all went from a toddler's walk to an almost baby-toppling run. Run-run-run on tippy toes—I imagined her doing a face plant (and would it be his fault?). But no, she made it to the sidewalk without falling.

 

At this point the father came toward her and then turned around to walk once more in the direction of the subway. And he held out his hand, as baby-lovers do, to guide her or help her or just to feel that little hand in his. And she waved her arms in a vigorous and abrupt refusal to hold hands. Both arms swept from front to back in the unspoken "No!" of an independent soul. "No! I don't need help!" It was clear that this was not the first rebuff he had experienced from her. He knew this little girl. So he continued walking on his own, and she tottered, toddled after him—perhaps relishing the safety of his nearness, but definitely choosing to walk on her own terms.

 

Another day I caught a glimpse of the toddler from the corner of my eye. She was standing stock still on the neighbours' lawn, a foot from the edge of the four-foot-high railroad tie retaining wall. Where was her father?

 

Oh, yes. There he is, running back toward the apartment building. The toddler didn't move an inch for about 30 seconds. He obviously had said, "I have to run back. You stay here. And DO NOT MOVE!"

 

After those 30 seconds she turned her head, one way and then the other, to examine her surroundings. Her feet did not move. She looked at the porch behind her, the tree to her left. Then she pivoted slightly on one foot.

 

She was calm for the first minute. And then she began to wonder whether this was a permanent abandonment. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She wore tights and a long-waisted top with a flounce at the bottom, and her sun hat protected her face. She was beyond adorable, at least from a distance.

 

Just as her movements were becoming a bit more agitated, her father ran from the apartment building, a cluster of keys in his hand. He went to his duffle bag beside the girl and fastened the keys on to it. He slung it over one shoulder. And then he held out his arms and hoisted her high in the air before settling her in the classic parental hip-carry.

 

Toddlers: endless entertainment, if you aren't responsible for them.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Identity

In the late '60s there was a parlour game in which you described yourself in five or ten attributes. I was never clear whether these were to be nouns (wife, mother, writer) or adjectives (emotional, instinctive, apoplectic). Since the game allowed you only a limited number of words with which to sketch your essential nature, it definitely made a difference whether you chose to identify yourself with nouns or with adjectives.

 

Nouns are easy. No judgment. Straightforward. No major revelations, even, except perhaps as to the ranking. Do you consider yourself, for example, a mother before a wife? Cook? Homemaker? Citizen of the world? Intellectual? Describing yourself with nouns could almost be done by another person, except for the ranking. In fact, maybe that was the game, now that I come to think of it. Maybe you were to describe not yourself but someone else.

 

But it's hard to imagine someone-not-you being able to capture your essence in adjectives, because it is in the nuances of adjectives that we hide ourselves. There are so many. So many possible adjectives, and how many of them would you like to acknowledge publicly? Who is to say whether you are honest in choosing attributes? Perhaps you choose the ones that fulfill a fantasy rather than reality. For example, which of the following possibilities are actually true?

 

seeking             popular                       pretty

humble                         thoughtful                      unpopular

proud                           thoughtless                    loved

ineffective                     inattentive                     unloved

thorough                       asleep                           grateful

slapdash                       enlightened                   ungrateful

reliable                         unenlightened                secretive

unreliable                      careless                        open

 

You see the difficulties? "Who am I?" might be the question. But who among us can be boxed into the space of five or ten or even an infinite number of adjectives? Notice how many adjectives call forth their opposites. Faithful demands unfaithful. Loving evokes unloving. Because we contain multitudes, all of us. Within each of us is a bit of everything. All is possible.

 

Perhaps the key is emphasis. Or intention. If I know that I am at the same time loving and unloving, can I not learn to enhance the former part of my being and diminish the latter?

 

We're coming to the nub of my thesis here. I must admit I believe in mutability. In our perfectability, even. Change is possible, for each of us. And it is never too late to change (that's the part I like).

 

Mired in old habits and old personal mind-sets, we might want to say, "This is how I am; take it or leave it." But is it not liberating to realize that "this is how I am today"? And that I am capable of changing any part that no longer serves me.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Heron

For many years

I did not know that the egret

is an immature heron.

Even now I may be lying.

Not lying in wait in a heron-like

(heronic?)

stillness of bamboo stilted legs

but standing on my own pins

between the bank and the pines

behind and watching the almost-hidden heron

lift,

slower than Time itself,

one stick of a leg

and balance in tai-chi smoothness

as she lulls the silvery prey

into careless abandon

and then the long beak darts

into the water

and the fish is breakfast.

Is here, not here.

And I am astounded by the lessons of this moment:

The patience.

The slowness of movement.

The eating.

The death.

The inevitability.

Gratitude for it all.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

En-joying Again

Walking east on Dearborn Street one morning in March I was cold. The damp, raw air made me grumpy. And of course we all know by now that I hate being cold.

 

Then I remembered my current mantra of "en-joying" my moments. It's obviously not an automatic thing yet—it may never be—but I can still access it when I remember, which is at least something.

 

So I thought about en-joying the walk. I was not in a hurry. There was nothing I had to do except arrive on time for my appointment.

 

And the minute I thought about en-joying myself, my whole demeanor changed. I was no longer cold. I was able to feel the chill on my face as the freshness of early spring rather than the final blast of winter. Able to soothe my nervous system into openness and delight.

 

And WOW, I thought, not for the first time. This really works!

 

 
 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

How I Hear a Poem Read Aloud, Even When the Hearing Aids Are Functioning

The spoken words disappear into the echo of the space.

 

It was "the art of . . . something."

The missing word had two syllables

and the sound of a long "a".

Facing? Basting?

Or spacing? Or tasting?

 

The art of spacing evokes my years of typesetting

with an early computer:

type each line two times—

oh, you really don't need to know,

because them days is gone forever.

And good riddance.

 

The art of basting.

This must be a domestic poem:

thread that needle (I hope your eyes

are younger than your ears)

and make long running stitches along the seam.

Ease in excess fabric as you go.

 

Or perhaps it's about

opening the oven to remove the holiday bird.

About tipping the pan and spooning juices

over the thighs and breasts

already halfway to a golden brown perfection.

 

The art of facing?

This might be more difficult,

depending on whom you're facing.

 

Let's call it the art of tasting

and be done with it.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Playmates

Cellar doors

and coal chutes

used to provide access to basements

from the outside.

A cellar door slanted

from the side of your house

to the alley.

The door parted in the middle,

and you pulled up both sides

and laid them flat

to reveal the entrance.

When the door was ajar

you walked down steps to the cellar.

 

When the two sides were closed,

you and your playmate slid down the doors

and after sliding

you both climbed on the rain barrel

and became jolly friends

for evermore.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Learning to love a life because . . .

Because what's the damned alternative? A friend once told me that when he was young he was a very unhappy, grumpy, and mean-spirited guy. And then one day when he was in his thirties he looked at himself and didn't like what he saw. So he changed. He told me he just decided it would be easier for everyone if he were happier. So he decided to be happier.

 

When I met him he had been "consciously happy" for some 15 years, and I was astounded by his story. I couldn't imagine him as grumpy and mean-spirited. He had learned to love his life because . . . well, he didn't really tell me why. I think it was along the lines of "it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown." (Not that I fully believe that. There are days when my face rests quite naturally in a frown shape and, although I can, on those days, bring a smile to my face instead, it is an actual muscular effort to do so. At least part of the time, I think frowning is easier.)

 

Learning to love life because . . . because we're here? Because we might as well? Because the Pope wants us to? Because God wants us to? Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is just waiting for the chance to share his opinion with you, with the idea of converting you to his reasons for learning to love life.

 

Some lucky people don't have to learn to love life; they are born that way. I could continue this meandering, but I've given you four paragraphs already. Now you can come up with your own reasons.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Thoughts on the Ultimate

I live with a divided mind. It might be what they call—oh, I've forgotten—that psychological state of carrying two opposed ideas in your head at the same time. I know the phrase as well as I know . . . well, you get the idea.

 

Anyway, here are the two notions, more or less. Oh, this is all about death and suddenly I don't really want to talk about death. But this is my chance to be both brave and boring at the same time. And there's another word I wanted to say it would reveal me as being—but I've lost that, too. I never said I was perfect. I used to think it, but I never said it.

 

All right. One part of me sees death as the logical outcome of life. As in "duh!" And sees it as not frightful. That part of me imagines the web of the universe, the limitless source that is unconditional love—all those good things we talk about in New Age circles.

 

When I am in this mode, I can accept the eventual fact of my–of everyone's—death. No big deal, it happens to all of us.

 

Come to think of it, we really do discount those things that "happen to everyone" as if the ordinariness of the event or the situation makes it less worthy of examination. Except for death. Death is different. It may happen to everyone, we can say to ourselves, but inside we know (until we are, say forty or a bit older) that it will not happen to ME. Ordinary it may be, but I, my dear, am exceptional.

 

Anyway, I'm past 45 and I know it's coming and on good days that's okay with me. All I can do is live as fully as is possible for me, pushing envelopes now and then, but more often simply staying with whatever it is that's happening without seeking the unusual. As a friend says, just living the brave life of what is and letting the next step come as it comes.

 

But another part of me resents this inevitability, and I finally realized why. I have a curiosity to see the end of the story. Anyone who is awake knows that the story never ends—but that doesn't change the desire to be around to see at least the next few chapters. The "what will happen next" to this or that situation. Circumstances change at every moment. Things that seem set in stone and settled forever suddenly are unrecognizable. Neighbours move, new ones arrive. Friends become ill, then recover—or not. Divorces divide families and friends. Old friends drift away and new interests bring new friends. And then there are the grandchildren. What will happen next?

 

And that's what I mean by wanting to see the end of the story. It's that continual desire to be around for "what's next." I know that there's no logic in wanting to see the end of the story, since the story will never end, so I'll let go of wanting such finality. But "what will happen to . . . " is the hook that keeps me going.

 

I imagine being 90, tired of an aching body, perhaps, but still wanting to know what will happen.

 

It's all about story.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

To Know Everything at Once

And where's the fun in that? I ask.

To know everything at once is to miss the point,

which is the exploration,

the learning curve (no matter how steep the angle).

What's left, I ask again,

to do with life if you know everything at once?

Hang out and show off your smarts?

 

Maybe this is the problem Adam and Eve had.

Not content with gradually absorbing

the wonders of their Eden,

They (yes, THEY: it was hardly her fault alone)

They let that smooth-tongued

snakeskin-clad salesman

bamboozle them,

abandoning the alternative:

the route

that tacitly counselled them

to take it slow,

take it easy,

follow the heart as it moves toward

one thing and then another

and don't aspire

to grasp it all at once,

in one swell foop.

Don't succumb to the lure of the easy.

Don't try to know everything at once.

 

 
Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wake-Up Time

It's high time to remove the kapok

from between your ears.

To put it another way,

it is time to love yourself

and stop already with Constant Critic

who has roosted for so long in your very heart.

 

Let go of it all and just enjoy

the life with which you have been gifted.

Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!

Here you are in a veritable

(if chilly)

paradise

and yet you grouse about your life as if

you actually had grounds for complaining.

So someone ate the cookies. Does that matter?

You feel beleaguered? Whose fault is it but yours?

 

And then there's the likelihood

that every one of these thoughts is simply the result

of having a head cold.

Let's leave it at that.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Winter Vacation

I have long insisted that the best time of year is the week between Christmas and New Year's. During this period nothing happens, and that's the way I like it. We do not entertain, we do not go out. The two exceptions to this are 1) that we will accept a dinner invitation from friends if one comes along and 2) that we will, if the mood strikes us, go out to our annual viewing of a first-run movie. I revel in this time at home, with nothing on the schedule. Some years we undertake a major cleaning project ("major" to me is anything that takes longer than half an hour). But all real work halts, our usual schedule is set aside, and reading is king.

 

It is heaven. At no point do I wish for it to end sooner so that I can get back to work. The downside of this extended vacation, however, is that I can sink so deeply into happy lethargy that I find it extremely difficult to come back to real life. I know I have to—after all, as they say, this is my one shot at life (well, some people say that; others say the opposite). I can't wallow my way through the next ten years—nor do I really, in my heart of hearts, want to. Well, in part of my heart of hearts. The left ventricle, maybe.

 

So I will attribute my lassitude to the deep freeze that has hit the east with endless ice and snow. It obviously has all to do with the weather and nothing to do with wanting to withdraw, abdicate, or shrug my shoulders of the burdens of life.

 

Oh, puh-leeze. The burdens of life? And you see these as what, exactly? Look more closely and you will see nary a burden in sight. Nothing in view but love, excitement, appreciation, and constant learning.

 

Oh ho! There's something new: learning. I spend more time than I like to admit whining about being unable to retain new information. I don't read non-fiction, for example, because I immediately forget whatever I learned in the book. So what's all this about "constant learning"?

 

Perhaps it isn't about linear, objective learning but about new insights and awareness. It's all, in point of fact, about me--my place in the Universe, my place in my own life. It's about correcting and modifying previously held beliefs. It's about memories that shift and change and morph into different ways of seeing what I had thought was all taken care of, all slotted into categories, boxed into cartons and settled once and for all.

 

Let others attempt to learn and retain fact-based information. I've got my eyes fixed firmly on my navel, because three fingers below it, at the dan-tien, is where the action is. Or so they say.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

I Remember Everything

On some level,

I remember everything.

When I find my way to that level,

I will remember everything:

the colour of the Kool-Aid we drank

the summer I was eight;

the name of our first dog;

the country roads we roamed in our jalopy;

even the human components

of that "our"

(there have been so many first-person plural

groupings in my life).

 

If I can just align myself

with the right level,

I will remember everything.

And the memories will flood me

out of the house

and onto the roof

where I will sit in the rain

and wait for rescue.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca

Musings blog: http://www.scenesfromthejourney.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/InfallibleNana

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Things That Make a Difference

Here are eight things that make a difference:

 

1. The sound of a lemon seed flicked into my stainless steel sink

 

2. The sleeping Vietnamese man on the subway, whose seven-year-old twin sons are taking advantage of his nap and creating giggle-worthy mischief

 

3. The wind. Not an adversary, as I have often thought, but simply energy looking for a tree through which to make music

 

4. Eating an artichoke leaf by leaf

 

5. A four-year-old jumping two-footed into puddles

 

7. Breakfast with my husband and the newspaper every morning

 

8. The intricate pattern of a red cabbage cut in half

 

 
Copyright © Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Striding into the World

Some heed the voices

shouting their bad advice,

not knowing they could stop their ears.

They follow the counseled path

for long years until at last their own wisdom

rises through a dry lake bed

and urges them on their own,

different,

path.

 

Would it have been a better life

if they had broken free earlier?

 

To stride deeper and deeper into the world

is a boon not granted to all.

Some are slow and take their own sweet time

meandering into fruitless

or downright wrong

corners,

ignoring the inner voice

that counsels wisely

until finally they do hear it,

well down the road,

and then just try to stop them

from making their own, individual strides

that lead them on, on,

as if it were the beginning

for, no matter how long it took to get here,

this is the beginning.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to Ride the Subway

Watch the subway passengers who surround you: tired, harassed people: men late for work; women rushing to pick up children from daycare; singles dreading another lonely night in a one-room apartment with ramen for dinner and the TV for company.

 

Fatigue is what you see in every face. Here's one thing you can do to help (I read this someplace): send a big hit of loving energy to each fellow passenger. Phrase it how you will, but here are some suggestions. You might say: may you dwell in your heart, for the first person. May you be free from suffering for the next. May you be healed, for the third. May you be at peace, for the next.

 

Keep the mantras flowing. See each person. Look into their eyes. Smile. Wish them well. Wish them well.

 

You might want to ask them what burden they would like to lay down, but you are too shy, or you don't want to intrude. So you send them loving energy and wish them well and hope that your prayers give them ease.

 

Ease. That's what we all need. May we all live our lives with grace and ease.

 

There. Doesn't that feel better than just hiding your nose in a book? Or puzzling out a Sudoku? There's time enough to do that when you're at loose ends at home. But for now, here on the subway, you have a job to do (should you choose to accept it—and I hope you will): provide support. Offer energy. Relieve these strangers of their deep suffering and the heavy burdens. Make yourself useful, as Eileen, my mother, used to say.

 

I doubt that Eileen envisioned advice like mine, a mixed tray-load of selections from the cafeteria approach to spirituality. But I'll bet she said her silent Catholic prayers whenever she sensed someone needing help. Taking a broad perspective, there's no real difference between her approach and mind: each is a quiet, contemplative way of making oneself useful.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca
 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

No Straight Path

By mistake after mistake

our lives take place.

At every intersection

we are forced to choose.

And at every juncture, by choosing,

we create a road not taken,

an alternate universe that might have led us,

willy-nilly,

into an uncharted way—

though they are all (for that's the point)

uncharted.

 

The question is:

where would we have ended up

if we had chosen any of the other pathways?

Could I conceivably have found my true self

(the one I am closing in on during these late years)

could I have found her

if I'd angled differently at any point in my life?

 

I have to be grateful

for the hunches and nudges

that guided me this way and that—

sometimes against all reason—

and brought me to this table,

this notebook,

this pen,

this writing.

 

 
Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: http://fastandfearlesscooking.blogspot.ca