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Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Cardinal

I was brought up Catholic by an Irish Catholic mother (Methodist father who, religiously, didn't count). Having broken with the Church by the age of 21 (do I need to enumerate the reasons for you?), I brought up my three children in a non-religious way, which I regret now to a certain extent. They have no background knowledge of the Judaeo-Christian culture in which, like it or not, they are immersed.


And of course, being totally uneducated in, say, Catholic ways, rituals, and history, they have been unable to pass along any such knowledge to their own children. Thus leaving me with five grandchildren who don't have a clue.


This was brought home to me while I was reading aloud to G (9) the start of Volume 2 of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (the ultimate anti-Church and even anti-God rant, presented as the most seductive of adventure stories). In this chapter we are at a meeting of high-up Church members, including a Cardinal.


Now, one of the tropes of the book is that all humans have a daemon, an animal (always of the opposite sex) who completes the person. Pre-puberty, the daemons are capable of changing rapidly from, for example, butterfly to weasel to goldfinch to wildcat. At puberty, when the child's personality has begun to stabilize, so does the daemon, settling into a form that reflects some dominant characteristic of the human. (The villain of the trilogy, Mrs. Coulter, is a beautiful but evil woman whose daemon is a golden monkey. The male protagonist's daemon is a snow leopard.)


So there they are around the table, these prelates and clerics and Mrs. Coulter, and they are discussing whether or not to continue torturing the witch they have captured (I believe I told you the book is anti-Church; and this is only the second of the three volumes).


G is listening intently even as she devotes her creative energies to making tiny figures with polymer clay. As the Cardinal joins the conversation she gets confused. Why is he called a cardinal? I say, it's the name for a high-ranking churchman, just below the pope.


She listens some more and it's clear she's still confused. Why is he called a cardinal?


Finally she's able to articulate the problem: every time I say "Cardinal" she thinks it is someone's daemon. I show her the capital C for this one (actually, we haven't yet had a cardinal as a character's daemon, though we've had a goose, an owl, and a raven, among the birds).


G gets it, sort of, but she still thinks it's a very weird title for a high-ranking cleric. And I become aware of how abysmally ignorant she is of Church matters. The knowledge I take for granted, having imbibed it almost literally with my mother's milk, is completely absent from her education.


This is a good reminder of how separate we all are. Each of us, on some level, thinks that we all share a common background—with minor variations, of course, but still. And there's not an iota of truth to this assumption.


My five grandchildren not only are ignorant of what a capital-C Cardinal might be, but they don't even know they don't know, and if they did know, they wouldn't care. It's a new world. Theirs.

Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring Has Been a Little Late This Year

Spring has been a little late this year,

but we are Grateful for Green

(Alliteration alleviates life's labours.)


Grateful for green at winter's waning

we will grasp the globes of lilac-hued lilacs

and shout hosannas skyward.

Vocal gratitude for green

gives way to thanks for flowering friends

of all stripes:

Pied and dappled leaves of grass

and trees and bushy shrubs that burgeon

through the rough days of this year's spring

(mock spring, maybe spring, almost spring)

and April's cruelty of yes, no, never.

Patience is called for.

"Never" is not true.

See the buds and believe;

remember that every year it happens.


Spring has been a little late this year.

When it arrives,

all are grateful for its

gracious greenery.


Copoyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Moving Along

So many ways to say the same thing. So many teachers to say it again, in a new way—his way, her way. So many helpers to teach us. So many opportunities to learn, to change. All we need to do is grab onto one of those. And if we forget or falter because of life's curve balls, then there will be yet another opportunity down the line.


A chiding way to interpret all this might be to say: so there's no excuse! No excuse for not finding your path, for not forsaking the less productive by-ways, for "failing" as some might judge it.


Or we could look at it instead as a plethora of occasions to hear, an endless sequence of offers for help. A lifetime of helping hands. If at first you don't succeed, watch for signs. Accept the portents.


I need to stop now before I reveal my true Pollyanna nature, always an embarrassment to one who turns an Eeyore face to the world. I wanted to talk about it all: about other worlds, about the unseen but undeniably present influences that guide us (attempt to guide us). I wanted to talk about silence and withdrawal, applied consciously and with difficulty to a busy life.


Synchronicity. Awareness of what joins us in the circle that is a particular moment of our lives. So easy to ignore the signs. It takes practice to cultivate and nurture aliveness to the moment. No matter how often we are reminded, we forget (being human). And yet there is no need for judgment, because the next moment will come, and the next, and the next. As many times as we can, we notice.


Perhaps I see this as equivalent to a death-bed conversion. A life might be lived without consciousness, but it is redeemed even at the very end when the last awareness might be the beauty of a shaft of sunlight through the blinds of the hospital room.


Is that too farfetched? Would that bit of noticing really be equivalent to the dedicated years of a devotee of tiny beauties?


Aha! We're back to judging, here. Who am I to judge? It reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son: he is not punished for his years of unconsciousness. On the contrary, he is fed the fatted calf. Fairness and balance don't enter into it. Comparisons are odious (Emerson said this). Just do your best. Heed the smallest signs. Welcome droplets of joy.


This morning I polished the table in preparation for my writing class, as I always do. After rubbing in the oil and vinegar, I polished and dried each of the three wide leafs using a soft flannel rag. Side to side I went, leaning into it with my whole body. I found that I tucked my left hand behind my back as I swept heavily across the width of the boards, rubbing with the grain of the wood.


I was tossed back into my memory of watching skaters at Nathan Philips Square years ago. In the midst of chaotic newbie skaters and short-stroke would-be hockey players, there was always an older man—Dutch, I fancied him—who skated slowly, with such dignity and sureness, a long glide on the right foot followed by a long glide on the left. As he skated he held one arm casually but firmly behind his back. So peaceful. So comfortable on his skates.


And I was just as comfortable as I stroked the table with a cloth, one arm behind my back. Grace is always available to us.


Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Heralding the End of Winter

If you want the warmth of the sun,

still low in the sky,

you must walk on the north


side of the street.

You will know, in May,

that winter is over for sure

(if not for long)

when the sun is high enough

to bathe you in light

on the south side of the street

as well as the north.

Watch and wait for that day in distant May.

In the meantime,

keep your eyes peeled for

snowdrops, then

crocuses, then

tulips, and (finally)



You see more with eyes wide open

than when you tightly close them

against the world.



Copyright © 2019 Ann Tudor
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