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Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Mucus Factory

For 48 hours my sinuses were a mucus factory. Had they been part of the Great Leap Forward in China (or was that the USSR?), they would have been awarded a gold star for efficiency.

 

I blew my nose every three minutes, quite productively, if you will excuse my saying so. In fact, I ask you to excuse this whole essay. Lady-like it is not. And yes, this very phrase is part of where I am going: "It is not."

 

In our house, Eileen, my mother, was a stickler for respectability. Being Irish, she knew the distinction between lace-curtain Irish and shanty Irish, and it was clear that of the two she preferred the former. Certain words were forbidden to us because of perceived vulgarity. One of these was "liar." We were forbidden to call each other liars—even when the evidence was clear that one of those three brothers was not telling the truth. Was prevaricating, in fact. Which in my book made him a liar. But I couldn't call him a liar without getting into even bigger trouble myself.

 

"Fool" was another one. I have been told that a passage in the New Testament cautions us against calling anyone a fool. By extension, I assume it also means don't aim critical words at others. But our Eileen settled for a literal interpretation: we could call each other stupid, or an idiot, or a moron—but not a fool.

 

With regard to respectability and decorum, one of Eileen's forbidden words was snot. Now, I understand her aversion. Snot has to be one of the ugliest words in the language—both the word itself and what it describes. Well, tell six raucous, word-happy kids that they can't use the word snot, and immediately the contraction "isn't" leaves the room. In its place is the other contraction: "It's not!" "Eileen, he said snot!" "No, I didn't, I said 'It's not!'" Dozens of times a week we would flout her rule, all while remaining within the bounds of good grammar. What thorns we were in her side.

 

To return to my own over-productive mucus membranes, as I lay on my sick-bed (sat, actually, since I had to remain upright or the mucus--it's not snot, surely--would drip down the back of my throat and make me cough), as I say, I sat in bed as the symptoms flew by: now a fever! Now chills! But never a respite from the mucus factory's production.

 

I often refer to my husband as a hoarder—mainly because I like to call a spade a spade. But during the course of that cold I forgave him his hoarding instincts because we never came close to running out of tissues. Every three minutes I filled another one. And then another. Thanks to his foresight, an empty tissue box was immediately replaced by a full one.

 

I have a friend who has tissue issues, seeing them as an assault on trees. In her house she provides handkerchiefs for those who might otherwise reach for a tissue. That's all well and good. But I remember the days of handkerchiefs, those days before tissues were available. I remember the importance of carrying a clean one, and I remember washing and ironing them. Let me tell you that when one is attacked by a vicious virus, one is overjoyed to be able to throw away the evidence, bagful after bagful.

 

Which leads me to the very strange fact that in Toronto's recycling program tissues are collected as compost, not as paper. The compost the city collects is piled high and composted for a year or two before it is distributed to city gardeners. Are you comfortable knowing that my week's worth of exceedingly germ-y tissues are now in the city's compost pile?

 

This was a virulent virus. On the Monday night I took a Sudafed to dry up the mucus factory temporarily so I could get some sleep. It's been a long time since I took a Sudafed. Either I've forgotten, or they've changed the formula. But it is now a mucus-dryer AND a stimulant. I took one tablet at eight in the evening and was wide awake (and sitting up, remember) for the whole night. I spent the next day, Tuesday, still sitting in bed in a haze of pain (overstuffed sinuses and nasal passages) and fatigue. I couldn't sleep for long because I would wake myself by coughing or sneezing. But I did sleep a little, overwhelmed by boredom. Next day, headache. Fuzzy and weak vision. Cotton brain. Where did this wicked virus come from?

 

And then it went away—not as quickly as it came, but I'm not going to complain. I began sleeping all night, the mucus factory closed down, and gradually my energy returned. It's not over (it isn't over) till it's over—but right now I'll settle for almost-over.

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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Old and the New

I know little about Henry David Thoreau beyond the most basic biographical information (not ever having read Walden, though I admire it immensely in my ignorance). Despite my admiration, I take offense at these words of his that I recently came across: "What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new."

 

Now wait just a cotton-pickin' minute, Mr. Thoreau. I am overly sensitive to the "o" word; I'll admit that freely. And I will also point out that things have changed since your day. There was once a time when the forward momentum was a gentle stroll instead of today's NASCAR race. There was a need, perhaps, to remind the "old" to stand back and allow new ideas to flourish.

 

But today's society, in its unholy haste to be first with the new, has thrown the baby (old knowledge) out with the bathwater. If it isn't new, we say, it isn't worth having/knowing/learning. Our children are so focused on obtaining the latest app and the latest version of whatever is being hyped that they don't have time to reflect on what might have been. This is literally true. They don't have time. All of their time is spoken for. Ding: answer this text. Ding: answer this text. Ding: answer this text.

 

So what are they missing that they might be able to learn from Thoreau's "old people"? Just right off the top of my head I can give you a short list: how to listen. How to notice. How to sit still for more than 30 seconds. How to breathe. How to see the murder of crows making its morning flight from eastern roost to feeding grounds in the west. (We made our own flight this morning from bedroom wing to kitchen wing to find our own feeding grounds.)

 

I'll stop my list there without going into the particulars of various crafts (how to knit, how to darn, how to cook, how to build a canoe, how to build a fire, make a chair, pluck a goose). To find out about skills that are on the edge of dying, the young have only to consult the old who, some might say, are also on that edge.

 

Let's try for a balance between the old and the new. In today's word we need to tie the old to the new like an anchor, to slow it to a more human rate of progress.

 

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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Barking Dog; a fable

Barking Dog came by his name honestly. Some called him Fido, but anyone within hearing range of his property called him Barking Dog.

 

He said—he told anyone who asked—that he was a good guard dog. He said no intruders would ever get into his family's house becaue he scared them off. Critics pointed out that he didn't distinguish between friends and foes. He just barked at anything that moved. But he knew who he was: a guard dog.

 

Early on in his career as self-appointed watchdog, his barking would alert the family members, who rushed to the door to see what frightening event might be taking place. When they reached the door they saw that the mailman had just visited, or little Johnny was standing on the porch to see if his friend Larry could come out to play.

 

One day they gave a party and Barking Dog greeted each guest with non-stop barking. That was the turning point. The family had to admit that Barking Dog had no discernment and could not be counted on as a watchdog. They began to ignore his incessant warnings, vainly yelling "shut up!" whenever he began to bark.

 

So the night the burglars came, when Barking Dog did his level best to warn the family, no one even bothered to get out of bed to investigate. The burglars cleaned the house out, taking all the valuables they could carry—while Barking Dog barked his head off.

 

Moral: All watchdogs should be told the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

 

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

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Other Dimensions

A friend recently mentioned other dimensions and how she sometimes imagines looking at her current self from some other dimension. (I may have misinterpreted what she was saying.)

 

I immediately tried to imagine, say, seventeen dimensions that connect with us here right now. It looked like a cross between a cubist painting and a 3-D tic-tac-toe game, all of this enclosed in intricate scaffolding.

 

Later in the week I brought this idea up with friends and got further information: first, the fourth dimension is Time (I'd known that once) and second, although physics posits four dimensions, in math (one friend is a mathematician) you can posit as many dimensions as you like and then prove them mathematically.

 

In the meantime, I had gone back to the typed version of my father's letters, not having re-read them since I first transcribed them several years ago from Myron's handwritten copies. The ones I was interested in were the 1934 letters.

 

In September of 1934, Myron's mother, Jessie, was recovering from an operation (her leg was amputated because of metastatic breast cancer). I don't know if it was medical advice or just a whim, but the family decided it would be good for Jessie to spend a month in New Mexico with my mother's parents to recuperate. Why they thought a three-day car trip in an old Ford would be healing is beyond me. So here's who drove to Tularosa, New Mexico: Myron, his mother (Jessie), his wife (Eileen), his father (Robert F.), and his first child (Robert Vincent), who was three months old. I can't imagine how awful the trip must have been.

 

In Tularosa they were welcomed by Eileen's parents, John Vincent Rahilly and his wife Anna (Anastasia), who had moved to New Mexico some 15 years earlier for J.V.'s health.

 

Myron's letters begin after he and his father had returned to Indiana, leaving the women and the child for a month's visit. On the way home, he writes, the car died and his father opted to buy a new Ford rather than repair the old one. (He had no interest in the equally available Chevrolet.) To handle the payment, Grandad called his bank back home and had them wire the money to the Ford dealer's bank.

 

The reason I was looking back at these letters was to find the word Myron used to refer to his son; it had struck me when I transcribed them but then I'd forgotten it. Now, it's bad enough that the poor baby was never even called by his real name until he was in medical school. His Irish mother re-christened him immediately after birth as "Dinty" for reasons undisclosed to any of us. But at this early stage of Dinty's life, either Eileen hadn't yet mentioned the "Dinty" nickname to Myron or she had mentioned it and he hadn't taken to it. For in these 1934 letters during Dinty's early months, Myron refers to the baby as "the stooge", as in "Give my love to Mother [i.e., Jessie] and to the stooge."

 

As I re-read these letters, it was as if I was living in Delphi, Indiana, with my father in the empty apartment above the Delphi Citizen office (the apartment where I was born two years later). I was rapt. The places and names were from my childhood (Clifford's grocery, Morrow Shoe Repair) and I could see Myron walking around the square during his daily rounds. He worked very hard while his little family was out West. The endless job-printing orders—the meat and potatoes of a small newspaper business—had him working until nine or ten or beyond most nights.

 

But it wasn't until my recent discussion of Time as the fourth dimension that I realized: during that hour spent rereading Myron's 1934 letters, I was following a Time loop that deposited me fully in 1934 Delphi, two years before I was born.

 

There are multiple dimensions to our lives, whether or not we are aware of them.        

 

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Myron's Chair

The easy chair that belonged to Myron, my father, was a dark green leather club chair. By the time he died it had dominated the living room of every house we lived in, and it had definitely seen better days. As we divided up the household goods, I think all six of us wanted to take that chair home as a reminder of our childhood. But by that time the leather was pocked with cigarette burns, at least one of which had expanded into a four-inch tear along one of the arms.

 

I see Myron in that chair, his long legs stretched out across the matching ottoman. On the floor beside the chair was a standing ashtray, a pedestal topped with a removable heavy smoked-glass dish that was always full of butts.

 

Cigarettes perfumed every room of our house when we were growing up. Both Myron and Eileen, our mother, smoked. One of them unfiltered Camels, the other unfiltered Luckies, though I can't remember who smoked which brand. The ashtrays throughout the house always needed to be emptied. The post-prandial cigarettes were stubbed out on the dinner plates. At the time that seemed normal—well, it was normal at our house—but imagining the practice now I can't think of anything more disgusting. No wonder we kids never wanted to do the dishes!

 

The club chair was where Myron read the paper (The Chicago Trib once a week, the Indianapolis Star, or the Lafayette Courier) and drank his cocktail-hour manhattans. The chair was wide enough and deep enough to accommodate (when we were very young) skinny Myron and a pile of skinny kids on Sunday morning (after Mass, of course) when he would read us the funny papers from the Trib.

 

In the end the dark green leather chair was left in the old home town. I really don't remember how we disposed of it almost forty-five years ago. But I have a feeling that, if pressed, any one of us could still describe in detail the chair our father sat in.

 

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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

There's a Song in My Head

Give me five minutes more, only five minutes more—

to something something how much I love you.

 

Why don't I jettison from my brain the long string of first lines of superseded songs? Well, I just can't tell you why. But they arise alarmingly often to the surface of my mind.

Sometimes, if I stick with it, I can come up with all the lyrics of a particular song, whether or not it's worth the effort.

 

In the last weeks it has been The Beatles' "I couldn't dance with another, Since I saw her standing there." That's at the top of my recall because it's on our dance tape. But most of the lyrics in my head predate the Beatles by 20 or 30 years. Chickery chick, cha-la, cha-la, for example. Mairsie Doats. Or Cole Porter: Miss Otis Regrets. I've Got You Under My Skin. You Go to My Head. Or old camp songs: Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me. Down by the Old Mill Stream (including the cabaletta with the patter that's funny to under-ten girls).

 

I'm gearing up for the days when the only words left to me will be the words to the songs the volunteer pianist plays at The Home: Let Me Call You Sweetheart, for example. I'm ready to sing it for you right now, if you'd like.

 

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Who Are All These People With Whom I Share the Planet?

Hubris is my middle name, whether or not I pronounce it correctly. Deep within me, unasked-for, is the knowledge that I am probably superior to everyone else. Well, everyone I don't know. The people I do know quickly reveal their strengths and excellent qualities and that revelation disabuses me of my untenable feeling of better-than.

 

Obviously such thoughts have no place in the heart of a seeker, so I am now consciously changing my ego-driven gut reaction.

 

Who ARE these people I know barely or not at all? Since I have no clues as to their nature or even their behaviour, wouldn't it be more appropriate to assign them activities and ways of being that elevate them in my mind rather than diminish them?

 

Let's take the Smiths. I frequently see these two retired people walking. But beyond those neighbourhood sightings, their lives are unknown. How they spend their time is a mystery, just as it is for any casual acquaintance.

 

So rather than wonder about the apparent lack of excitement or virtue in the Smiths' lives, I have come to the conclusion that they are closet Buddhists. Unbeknownst to us neighbours, they spend each day in meditation (jointly or singly I can't know) and prayer; they eat abstemiously; they revel in sending healing messages to all sentient beings.

 

Well, who would have thought? This has completely reversed my view of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I now imagine them as selfless, conscious beings committed to the good.

 

And having accomplished this turn-around in my thinking, I have begun to apply a positive spin to everyone I come in contact with. Those dispirited people on the subway are not living empty lives of despair but only seem dull on the subway because internally they devote their commuting time to meditation, prayer, attempts at enlightenment. Strangers are not who I originally thought them to be, but are infinitely better.

 

This way of thinking does nothing to diminish me. On the contrary, their gain, arbitrarily imagined by me, is also my gain. The world wins.

 

Now, if I could just successfully extend this generosity to everyone. Excluded, for the moment, from my benign thinking are those who barrel along the sidewalk without making room for others; those who steadfastly refuse to notice that the subway car is filling up and thus it might be time to move their feet or their giant backpack off the nearby seat; in short, anyone who annoys me while I am out in the world. Those who fail to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. Those who are publicly noisy when I want quiet. Those who are slow when I want fast, or fast when I want slow. Those, in short, who are not ME.

 

H'm-m. The new me seems to need additional work. Well, I've made a start. If I can open my heart a bit more maybe I can make room for uncritical views of first one other couple, then another. Then three. And then on to an entire subway-ful. It's a work in progress.

 

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

To Etch a List

Writing a list is onerous enough.

Etching a list would take forever,

so best make it a list worth etching.

No mere catalog of groceries to buy

or Christmas card recipients.

What, then?

A list of epiphanies,

experienced or desired?

Well, the ones experienced, perhaps,

but to write of desired epiphanies

misses the point.

Surely an epiphany is by definition

unexpected,

not an experience to be demanded

as a child calls for more:

more candy, cookies, love.

 

No, etching a list of epiphanies

you'd like to be visited with

would be a fool's task.

Let those come as they will

(if they will).

Instead, etch your list with beauties encountered,

pains endured,

growth received.

Etch a list of gratitude for life.

 

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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Organ Lessons; a Mother's Day Story

I've forgotten most of the details, as you will see. But here's what I remember: Eileen, my mother, overcame her fears and made sacrifices so that I could learn to play the organ.

 

When I was in grade 8 I began taking organ lessons. I don't know why. I was age-appropriately proficient on the piano and I don't remember any strong push to play the organ, though there must have been one.

 

However the subject arose, Eileen jumped on the idea, probably because it coincided with her strong Irish Catholic ideas of how her daughter could endear herself to God. She found a teacher at the convent in Lafayette, twenty miles away. Looking back, I'm surprised at the ease with which that happened.

 

Now, it is important to know that Eileen was a supremely nervous driver. The road between our home town, Delphi, and Lafayette followed the twisting and turning of the Wabash River, with resulting hills and vales. Highway 25 was a two-lane highway (they all were, in those days), and family cars shared the road with the long-distance trucks that transported goods all across the country. If you were stuck behind one of those giant semis grinding slowly up a rise, then you remained stuck forever—unless you were a driver bold enough to poke your nose around the truck and attempt to pass on one of the rare and too-short straightaways between curves and hills. Eileen made this drive with her heart in her throat. I could hear the terror in her breath and see the white knuckles of her death-grip on the wheel.

 

Making that trip once a week for a lesson would have been enough of an effort for the mother of six school-age children. But we needed to find a way for me to practice. Lucille, the organist at our parish church, seemed to feel she owned the church organ. She was a sour woman my mother's age, who led the grade-school girls' choir in their (our) pretty much incompetent singing of the more-or-less Gregorian chant Mass, and she was not a very good organist. But she was the organist. Father Kienly, when we asked permission for me to practice on the church organ (the church where I attended daily Mass as a member of the parish and was a paying student at the two-room Catholic school)—Father Kienly referred us to Lucille, asserting that this was not a decision he could make. (He was not only a lily-livered coward but also a promising pedophile, later transferred to another parish after Eileen and her dear friend Irma complained about his interest in and "accidental" touching of my sister Sari's burgeoning breasts.)

 

Anyway, Lucille said no. No way could I, an eighth grader, practice on the (her) church organ. She must have offered some sort of justification, but I don't remember what it was. As the months went on, her real reason became very clear: Lucille thought I was studying the organ so that I could take over her job. It never occurred to her that I might have a wider life ambition than being organist of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Delphi, Indiana, population 2500.

 

Where, then, could I practice? My new teacher in Lafayette offered us a private practice room at the convent. So for a long period of time (a month? six months? who can remember?) Eileen and I drove that cursed Highway 25 not just weekly but daily, always after school when traffic was heavy (though that might not be true; I'm pretty sure there wasn't a rush hour between Delphi and Lafayette!). But it was definitely at the awkward after-school, pre-dinner time of day. We would drive for thirty minutes, I would practice from 3:30 to 4:30, then we would drive home and Eileen would immediately apply herself to preparing dinner for eight people. How long we did this daily routine is anybody's guess.

 

Eventually, my father prevailed upon the minister at his own (Methodist) church and I was allowed to practice on that organ. Looking back, I can see that it was worth his while to save Eileen from that daily drive—which must have affected his dinners as well.

 

At the convent, Eileen would let me off at the door. I went down a hall and into the small, bare practice room—nothing in it but the organ (perhaps the same one on which I took my lessons), its bench, and maybe a chair. Where Eileen waited for me I don't know. Presumably (I hope) not in the car!

 

The peace I felt as I entered that room—indeed the entire building—is still in me. It was quiet. Such a shift from the chaos of my family life—and thus so harmonious to my introverted self—that it's a wonder I didn't opt to join the convent immediately.

 

And then I practiced. Smooth transitions from note to note, fingers shifting as needed for a legato line. Three ranks of keys. Stops to pull to imitate flutes or trumpets. Pedals, in the same layout as the organ's black and white keys. Heel-and-toe exercises and scales. Heaven.

 

And it was Eileen who made it all possible. Happy Mother's Day!

 

 

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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Wake Up Empty

Wake up empty if you must

then spend your whole day filling.

Look at the sky

whether it's the colour of milk

or sea

or Paradise itself.

 

Hold a tree to fill a crevice or two.

Put your foot on the needles of the forest floor and

let Earth filter through

your sole to expand your soul.

 

So many ways to generate fullness:

babies, deep talk,

dancing to the rhythms of your heart,

hugs.

 

Consider also the charms of domesticity:

chop an onion,

knead the dough,

create a scarf by looping a single strand of yarn

through itself, through itself, through itself.

 

Send out some love

and watch new love seep into the cracks.

 

Above all: kneel before what is awesome

then stretch your neck to kiss the sky.

 

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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Salads of Yore

In the 1950s in North America, "salad" was a loose term. Yes, it could mean lettuce: usually a wedge of iceberg lettuce, crisp and cool and without flavour, smothered with store-bought Thousand Island dressing (in the world I grew up in, dressings were always store-bought).

 

So yes, that was something that we might almost recognize today as a salad—though we'd recognize it with a strong sense of superiority, we with our arugula and mache, our mini-greens.

 

But the Lime Jello Salad? That's a horse of a different colour—lime green, in fact. Eileen, my mother, made it for special occasions, though she certainly didn't invent it. It was in the Zeitgeist. Over the years of its popularity it took different forms, with cooks improving on the original recipe, sometimes disastrously, though the original was itself pretty disastrous.

 

The Lime Jello Salad was not something to throw together at the last minute. Its basic building block was lime Jello. You know Jello, don't you? Gelatin powder, sugar, and artificial flavouring. On its own, Jello was often served as bright-coloured bouncy dessert cubes, with a blob of "whipped cream" on top. If there are places where this is still being served, please don't tell me.

 

But that was Jello as dessert. To make it into a "salad" you had to put a little savoury into it. So as you stirred in the second cup of water to it you also added mayonnaise (or, more likely in those days, Miracle Whip salad dressing, certainly cheaper than that wicked foreign, hard-to-spell mayonnaise).

 

Anyway: Jello, not yet set. Mayonnaise mixed in. The next ingredient was cottage cheese. Large curd or small, it was your choice. You mixed it right in to the still-liquid Jello.

 

Then came crushed pineapple—always canned because, as everyone knows, fresh pineapple's bromelain keeps gelatine from setting.

 

And chopped nuts. Pecans were best, but unless you lived in the South and had your own tree, pecans were pricey, so you added them only for very special occasions, like Thanksgiving.

 

You stirred up all of this and poured it into a baking dish (like an 8x8 Pyrex dish) and refrigerated it until it was firm.

 

To serve, you cut the Lime Jello Salad into large-ish squares, lifted them out with a spatula, and placed each square on a little bed of shredded iceberg lettuce, topping the whole thing with a dollop of mayonnaise or, of course, Miracle Whip.

 

The small plate holding this was placed to the upper left of the main plate. No separate courses in those days. You ate your Jello salad along with your turkey or roast beef.

 

As cooks sought to make this their own, some merged it with the "perfection salad", which was a different Jello salad with grated carrot (and sometimes celery) and crushed pineapple, maybe with nuts. The Jello for that salad was lemon, not lime. Made a huge difference. So sometimes extra nutrition was added to the Lime Jello Salad in the form of grated carrot, but that wasn't in the original recipe as I remember it.

 

It is virtually unrecognizable today as even edible, let alone nutritious. Certainly I won't be making it (I don't even know where to look in the supermarket for packets of Jello). And yet I can still taste the way the mayo made the base of lime Jello creamy and tangy, while the little toothsome lumps of cottage cheese contrasted with the sweet chunks of pineapple. I don't want this, but my memory of it is nothing but sweet: elegant pale green squares broadcasting the specialness of a meal.

 

 

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

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