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Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Annual Xmas 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.

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. You envision a Christmas dinner made up of X number of dishes. Well, how terrible would it be if you served X minus 1? Or X minus 2? Or even X minus 3? (Is Chinese take-out completely out of the question?)


LET GO OF the idea that you are solely responsible for the holiday happiness of everyone you know.

Bring an OPEN HEART to every encounter.

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

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.

In the words of Tiny Tim, blessings on us every one!

Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Peaches the Dog

A big dog, hairy and rust-coloured with black paws. Intelligent face, strong, wolf-looking shoulders. He seemed to be all on his own as I met him on the sidewalk, and an unleashed (big) dog makes me nervous. And then I heard his owner calling him. She was a chubby petite in an expensive-looking white winter coat. "Peaches," she called. Peaches looked at her. "Come on," she called as she walked past me. Peaches promptly ran across the street, mouth wide open and tongue lolling in a mocking laugh.


The owner called him several more times in vain, and then she tried a classic exasperated-mother trick (which doesn't work more than once on any toddler): "Okay, Peaches, I'm going. Here I go. You can't come with me. Have a nice day on your own, Peaches. Have a nice LIFE." (This last part was, I assume, for my benefit.) Throughout these threats Peaches had turned to look at her, head cocked, very alert. He obviously understood everything she was saying. But he also knew, from past experience, that her threats were empty. So Peaches turned around, tail high, and loped away, happy as could be.


By now the owner was sputtering, perhaps embarrassed that I could see how completely out of control her dog was. Peaches romped through the parking lot and I was startled when I found him waiting for me between two parked cars, but it was clear by now that Peaches was so busy amusing himself with this game that he had no interest in frightening me.


I continued to my appointment. Peaches continued playing catch-me-if-you-can. The owner continued to call him with a complete lack of authority in her voice.


What do you do when the dog is smarter than its human roommate?


Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Everything We Know

Let's just forget it,

if you catch my drift.

Let's just walk away from everything we know.
We're talking about a lot of knowledge,

I acknowledge.

But just think how corrupted it is,

how sullied by the daily thrust and parry

of our divided world.

It's my belief that the radical act of walking away

will sweep out the space of our hearts,

making room,

making elegant, splendiferous room,

for what is to come.


And look!

Watch those little heart-dwellers

creep back into the still, swept space.

peering cautiously at you.

Tempt them with morsels if you will.

Invite these pure and innocent denizens

to share the newly emptied space of your heart.

Perhaps you will awake to find them


to your needs.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Write Truth

Open, sesame!

Will that magic phrase unlock

the obdurate blank surface

and reveal the meaning I'm striving for?


Will "open, sesame!" painlessly give me

similes, images,

juxtapositions, ironies?


Probably not.

I'll have to come up with these all by my lonesome,

and they won't come easily.


Aim for truth.

The right truth—mine or yours?

Write the right truth, no matter how small.

When written right,

small truths expand to fill the space.

A tiny truth, if it's the right one,

is as big as a star, and as far

from my doing as the star is from us.

Writing is manual labour, says the poet.

Breaking rocks all day leaves me

with a pile of rubble.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Saying Nothing

The bliss of silence must be learned.

As babies we treasure our sound loosed upon the world.

And then we learn words and

we share ourselves as if such sharing

is our birthright.


How glorious, then, to turn to silence:

no careless expression of thought

or feeling (overwrought).

Instead we recognize that we are larger

than speech.

The connections that sustain us

are clean,

when we no longer have to explain ourselves.


My past, your past—

to reveal these would be the work

of a lifetime (and tedious for all).

How much wiser, then,

to still our voices.





Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Loving the World

Is it supposed to be so hard?

Born with a gloomy aura,

I struggled

to love my world.


But it became easier with each passing year.

If I live long enough

I hope to love my world freely.

Effortlessly. Wholly.


In the meantime, I balance incensed righteousness

with the robin singing as if just for me,

the cardinal insistently claiming his territory.

I read the day's measure of bad news

even as I am overwhelmed

by the sweetness of the Japanese tree lilac

at my fence.


My murderous thoughts are mitigated 

by the blooming linden tree,

its branches high above the pavement,

its scent drifting to me

as I pass beneath it.


That's all I have, in the city:

a cardinal, a robin, sweet shrubs.


But sensual delight instructs me,


in the art of loving the world.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Devour, Wolfville, NS

We just arrived back in Toronto after spending a week in beautiful Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The occasion of the trip was Devour, the Food Film Festival, a five-day extravaganza of eighty films, plus three large dinners, prepared by chefs from Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Culinary workshops were taught by well-known chefs and there were also workshops on film-making, foraging, wine-tasting, and cheese-tasting—as well as trips to wineries and breweries.


My reason for writing about the festival here (aside from the hope that some of you might be inspired to attend Devour next year) is to tell you about a few of the movies that inspired me.


Two movies ("Dive" and "The Food Fighter") deal with the question of food waste, showcasing people who work tirelessly to inform us and to persuade (for example) large grocery chains to send their perfectly good packaged products to soup kitchens rather than to the dumpsters behind their stores. Very inspiring stories.


"Billion Dollar Bully" investigates the accusations that Yelp! is running a mob-like extortion scheme.


"The Game Changers" views plant-based eating not just as the best choice environmentally but as a way for athletes to achieve their best results. Fascinating and very persuasive.


Finally, "Maxima" and "Honeyland" are portraits of very strong women thriving in harrowing circumstances. Maxima lives in mountainous Peru, where her small piece of land is coveted by a giant gold-mining company. "Honeyland", set in rural Macedonia, follows the life of a woman who uses ancient traditions in the keeping of her bees.


All of these movies are well worth your time. "The Game Changers" is already on Netflix, so it's easy to find. I urge you to watch for the others during the next year, whether on-line or at your local theatre.


And do go to to learn more about the festival, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year.


Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 20, 2019



frost turns the parsnips sweet and

brings forth the boys of October,

who endured the summer heat

for the promise of chilly




Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Squashes of Fall

I haven't tasted a winter squash since last April. Between October and April we eat a lot of winter squash and by spring are ready to enjoy the lighter vegetables. All summer we dine on salads, greens, tomatoes, green beans, peas, buying endless bunches of green onions, basil, parsley.


 But now I find myself unable to resist, at the Junction Market, a medium-sized Hubbard squash. The Hubbard is my second favourite squash, the favourite being Kabocha for its dense, smooth, sweet bright orange flesh. The Hubbard I am drawn to for the colour of its shell—almost seafoam green, a pale blue/grey/green—and for its size. A Hubbard can be bigger than a full-sized Halloween pumpkin, and it is made even more striking by that unexpected pale blue shell.


Supermarkets and farmers' roadside stands alike often hack the Hubbard into more manageable chunks—the size of half a loaf of bread, say—since few people these days are ready to deal with that giant ghostly-looking winter squash.


The one I found at the market is the size of a large football (American football), and the tapered stem end reinforces the comparison. When I got it home I discovered that it weighs nine pounds—no wonder the shopping cart was so hard to pull.


It sits still in the wooden bowl where I keep apples, ripening avocados, and pears. The Hubbard dominates the bowl. Soon I'll have to deal with it.


I bought it earlier than I should have, just because it caught my eye and reminded me of autumn. I need to get my fill of tomatoes, peaches, and the summer pattypans before I bite the bullet and give in to the coming months of apples and winter squash.


So some day this week I'll whack it open, remove the seeds, and roast it, cut side down, until I can plunge a fork through the skin and into the flesh. Then I'll let it cool, peel off the pretty blue rind, and freeze the orange flesh in two-cup batches ready for soups, casseroles, patties, fritters, and pies as the weather cools. I expect to get a lot of usable squash flesh from my Hubbard.


If I don't find another at the market before it closes at the end of October, then I'll move on to my real favourite, the Kabocha, which is available in more and more places throughout the winter. As a last resort I'll buy a butternut, especially when it has a long neck that can so easily be sliced into rounds that I'll gently sauté in butter. I'll use the round end for soup, because butternut, though my third-place squash, does make a good soup.


For sure, however, I won't be putting my money down for an acorn, that stringy tasteless squash whose only attraction is the cute name and the ruffled shape.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Search That Takes a Lifetime

During the 10 years I spent making things, I was an artist wannabe, an artist manqué, an artist groupie.


But let's face it. With all my fibre arts I was at best a half-decent craftswoman; never an artist. I recently heard a description of an artist's little studio filled with tapestry, paints, clay, paper—all the accoutrements of different artistic modes—and all necessary so that she can address the urges of each day. I have lived like that, in a way, so surrounded by yarns and fabric that I was often overwhelmed—spoiled for choice. And then it was over. I couldn't stand the jumble and the mess. Now all the yarns and fabric are gone, except for some precious examples that reproach me for no longer knowing how to make something of them.


It took me a long time, didn't it?, to find who I am. I take that back. I have been many, many people through my life. The difference between then and now is that I was then always searching, always dissatisfied. Always wanting to know who I really was.


And here's where I am now. I know who I really am, today—but I also know that I am still continually changing and I might not be the same "me" tomorrow. But what I have learned (how many years has it taken?) is that that's okay. It is in my nature (maybe in yours, too, or maybe not) to be fluid. Glimpsing a photo of sheep in their blue fleece-protecting coats, I interpreted it as a picture of large boulders in a fast-running blue stream. And that's how I see my life now. Some days I am the boulder. Some days I am the rushing stream, on its way, on its way.


But I am always and ever who I am, because that is the person I take with me on the journey.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Revisiting Those Clothes on the Line

This is a correction. Countless times have I rhapsodized about hanging my clothes outdoors, my clothes on a line, my laundry drying in the sun, drifting with the breezes. Ain't that a pretty picture?


I cheerfully hang my laundry on the line all summer long, which is to say for a good three or four of the twelve months of the year. As I perform this ancient task I imagine myself joining the ranks of pioneer women, or at least farm women (small-town women) from my own rural upbringing. Such nostalgia. Such reverence for tradition.


And what am I overlooking? Well, reality, for one thing. We have a dryer in the basement, one of those modern conveniences that function on electricity. At the slightest hint of bad weather, those clothes of mine hit the dryer. In fact, during the eight or nine or ten non-warm months of our year, the retractable clothes line sits on a shelf in the basement, not even an option.


Here's what doesn't happen: I don't go out in the cold to hang my clothes, ever. I don't unpin my frozen laundry from the line and carry the items inside like two-dimensional people, stiff and cold, to spread them over the furniture until they thaw to a damp, relaxed state and then re-hang them on an overcrowded wooden rack until they are semi-dry and stink of mildew.


In short, I experience only the hobbyist's version of "hanging out the clothes." If I were forced to live the reality of it—clothes on the line, rain or shine, sleet or snow or 40-below—I would be singing a different tune. If I were washing clothes for a young family of three or four children, with a baby or two in diapers—and washing every day and drying clothes indoors during the months of inclement weather, you'd see my beatific smile change to scowls and worry lines.


By glamourizing the sweet-clothes-dried-in-the-sun aspect of this, I am ignoring and thus diminishing the reality for many women—not just women from our past but those millions who are totally dependent on the vagaries of weather to keep their families presentable.


I apologize wholeheartedly to all those who hang out their clothes from necessity and not from choice. I am a dilettante. All I can say in my defense is that I do love it. But it is important for me to recognize the limitations of my experience and to salute, clothespins in hand, those intrepid women who do the necessary, simply because it has to be done.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 22, 2019


I want to tell you about

the singular world I live in

(well, all our worlds are singular—

yours, mine, his, hers)—

but I can't always do it.

There's many a memory slip twixt

what I experience—

deeply, sometimes, and joyfully—

and the nib of my pen hitting paper.


I am indeed reduced, at such times,

to living in the present,

for the deep and exhilarating experience

becomes, in a flash,

as irretrievable as any dream.

It's no longer available, that astounding moment.


But I can tell you about

the very small, mundane moments of my life.

I pretend to present them as pejorative,


less than.

But the mundane is all I can offer:

the wonderful brightness

of my mundane existence.


Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ages and Endings

At the birthday party for our 85-year-old friend recently, he and I were talking about relative ages. He asked me mine and I told him. But before I said it I found myself about to say, "I'll be 83 on my next birthday." And I realized that, now that we're past the middle of the year, I automatically assign myself the upcoming age, not the number age I am right now. It's like the five-year-old who lets you know she is five and a half, so eager is she to reach that magic Number Six, when school begins and front teeth fall out and she is no longer a baby-ish five.


So why would I want to anticipate my own new number? No excitement awaits me when I will turn 83 at Christmas.


Or at least I hope no excitement awaits. Because at this age the excitement is more likely to be unpleasant than fun. I know this because I look around and see what is happening to the people I know. Even my ten-years-younger friends are experiencing that not-so-pleasant kind of excitement.


And I don't know whether I speak for everyone my age, but I have to say that after years (decades) of pretty much taking my body for granted, I am now excruciatingly conscious of every twinge. A sharp pain someplace, a dull ache someplace else, a twinge where there has never been a twinge—any of these becomes the harbinger of—not "the end" but the beginning of the end, the means to the end. The possible signaling of what will carry me off—though first delivering me willy-nilly to the machinations and chemicalizations of the medical fraternity.


More alert than I have ever been, I track the workings of every organ, every muscle, every tendon, every bone. It keeps me busy, I have to say. It's a lonely task, because who on earth would want to hear all those details? I'm not quite the "malade imaginaire", since I don't broadcast these "symptoms" or let them rule my life. Yet. But I am aware as never before.


This has to be a good thing, this hyper-vigilance. I say that because otherwise it looks like an obsession of the ego. So let's frame it as good, as an old person's way of staying healthy physically even as the mental stress does strange things to her reality.


Anyway, that's it for today. Today's report from the Land of Old. Was I not premature those ten years ago when I published Hesitating at the Gate, that report from the Land of Old? I see now that ten years ago I was not old at all. And ten years further down the line (can you do the math?) I'll look back on today's rude good health and see this present self as a model of vigour and strength.


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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Translating the Self

E.B. White once said that "writing is translation and the opus is yourself." What have I been doing for the last ten years but translating myself for an audience that may or may not care. Not true! Not true! I'm translating myself for MYSELF. There you go. Now you've got it.


Can I stop here? Can I stop in the larger sense, stop translating myself? Or does it go on and on until the last breath? I don't journal (although Henry David Thoreau told me this morning that it was time to start). So I can see me, death-bed-bound, journal in one hand, nice easy-writing pen in the other:


Dear Diary (Well, Dear Journal. Sounds more grown-up). I'm coming to the end of the line. What more can I say? Thanks for the memories? (Way too flippant.) A quick "thank-you-very-much" a la Elvis? (Even more flippant.)


Face it. I'm not going to be foreshadowing that final write today, now, in this place. It has to wait for the appropriate moment.


In the meantime: kindness, kindness, kindness. Or remember that each of us is seeking love from everyone we meet. In the meantime: you gotta live, live, live until you die! Everyone has already said it all—and better. So I guess I'll just keep translating . . .




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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Responding to a Prompt

I swore, only two or three minutes ago, that on this round of writing I would accept—nay, would embrace—at least one of the prompts. How rash I was. How important is one's swearing? If I don't use one of these, will I be perjuring myself? Will anyone notice? Of course, no one would have if I hadn't just revealed my vow to the world and all.


I've even forgotten what those prompts were. Okay. I remember one: "the waves roll in". This is the kind of phrase I loved when I was a girl. I lived in the middle of a large continent, with no access to or even view of an ocean. An ocean was, if I may put it this way, Terra Incognita. (Someone already is tweeting that I can't put it that way. Perhaps "Mare Incognito." But not Terra. I knew that, you know. You didn't have to yell at me.)


Back to the story—or what passes for one. I knew no ocean when I was little. Our body of water was Deer Creek, which ran through the town. There were also the lakes up the road in Monticello, known as the Gateway to the Lakes, such as they were, of central Indiana. But we never had much truck with Monticello except in two ways. First, a group of Delphi intelligentsia (don't ask) met monthly at a cottage on one of the lakes. The cottage was called "The Purple Privy." And second, believe it or not, big bands on tour used to show up at one of the resort's venues. We bumpkin high school students could drive fifteen miles north to see and hear Stan Kenton band, complete with Maynard Ferguson and his impossibly high trumpet. And I remember going with friends to hear the Dave Brubeck Trio. In my mind's eye I see it as a dancing venue, though why anyone ever thought to dance to Dave Brubeck's music I can't tell you.


In any case, I didn't dance that night. I stood—the whole evening—at the edge of the small bandstand, in love with Paul Desmond and his alto sax. He was a musician. He was drop-dead good-looking. And he was playing, in the sexiest possible way, the sexiest possible instrument. I didn't take my yearning eyes off him all night.


This was long before the concept of band-following groupies. But I do believe that if he had responded to my gaze and had approached me at the intermission or the end of the concert, I would have followed him wherever he wanted to lead me--like Mary's little lamb (and this would have been against the rule as well as against the law). I like to think that now. But in reality, I'm pretty sure I would have fled like the little Catholic virgin I was.


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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Many Thanks

I've never much appreciated the facile rhyme of "Have an attitude of gratitude" because it seems too glib. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the importance of feeling and expressing thanks.


Well, pardon me, I hear you ask, but to whom is one expressing those thanks? Actually, the person I hear asking this is some discarded version of my self, the one who proudly believed in nothing. That one.


Don't leave us there, you go on. Tell us how you changed. Tell us who it is that you are thanking. Don't leave us in the dark.


In the dark is where I lived. No. That isn't right. Isn't completely right. Is right but leads nowhere. I'll take the second half of your question. Who is it I am thanking, now that I've accepted the importance of being grateful? I'm thanking the Universe. Or, to make it smaller than the Universe, I'm thanking the connectors, connections, the Indira's Net that snares us all and keeps us separate and together. Together in our individuality. Separate in our oneness. If you insist that I justify it, I'm sending thankful words and thoughts to the energy of our lives.


I can particularize these energies if that suits you. I can thank all the strands of the net and all the nodes where the strands are knotted. The trees—from the enormous old oak in Carol's park to the tall urban-tolerant maple in my yard to the many-branched symmetrical maple in High Park that I call my favourite. And, to be less grandiose, my thanks go also to the little scrub oaks in wooded areas or straggly beach oaks that grow in salty sand near the ocean.


You get the picture of the trees: I thank them all. I could be specific and in more detail thank them for the oxygen, or for the coloured leaves in fall, for big-leaf shade in summer, for black tracings against the winter sky. But usually, it's just a simple gratitude for all their gifts.


The energy I prize comes just as well from what we humans (who love to categorize) call "inanimate objects." Rocks and stones and mountains. Rivers, oceans, lakes. I remember a friend's story of lying still on a sun-baked rocky ledge—so still that finally she was able to feel the rock breathe. The rushing brook races to join the equally eager stream, all forms of these waters bursting finally into rivers then lakes or oceans.


It's been extremely difficult for me to extend thanks to ancestors. What do I know of them? Nothing, in most cases-- and the little I do know is mostly about the mismanagement of their own lives (in my humble opinion, of course). It's been a struggle to learn what to thank them for. A teacher recently talked about how, once they have passed to the other world, our ancestors lose (and forget) the traits that twisted them during this earthly life, and they then become beings who want only to help us—even to help us overcome their own legacies. So I'm working on this project now: to open myself to being helped by these (often unknown) ancestors and to thank them in advance and collectively for their willingness to assist.


The heart is the place to live, I keep being told. After a lifetime of prizing the head, the brain, the mind, it isn't easy to switch to the heart as the source. Whatever happens, go to the heart first and listen. You'll find what is needed in the heart.


How do you get there? You breathe. You breathe into the heart. You feel the flame of the heart and you feed it with love.


Simple. But a moment-by-moment challenge for living.


Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, August 18, 2019




It's all about proportion.

Take peas, for example.

Give them a chance.


I once wrote a long essay on peas,

but here's something new:


When a grandchild who is now 15

was in his teen months—

say, 18 or 19 months—

just cutting his teeth on language,

I was one day supervising his snack:

a little dish of cooked peas.

He held a pea between his

tiny thumb and index finger,

inspected it,

then pronounced:



I still think that was a moment of genius,

of abstract reasoning beyond his years.


On the other hand, maybe he was just babbling,

trying out sounds,

and the interpretation was simply

that of a besotted nana.

But if I heard correctly,

perhaps the word presaged

that once-little boy's

current brilliance

as a baseball pitcher.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Praise Grief

Praise your grief,

if by "praise" you mean

attending to, accepting,

and embracing what might otherwise

flatten you into pancakeness.


Praise grief for how it opens you

to life's sweetness laced with bitter loss,

for such it is:

bitterness as the finish to our joy.

You are in flux because you are human.

Your grief, however real and fierce,

is modulated on all sides,

through all sounds,

by the minute flashes of gold

that light your way each minute.


Did you see it?

The tiny snowflakes

(so few as to be countable)

on that child's hatless head?

Quick! Did you see

the score of pigeons arrayed on the line

for your delight?

The grief persists—

it always will—

and still.

And still.


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