Hey there, Chiquita

Once there was a boy who rose to the challenge of this new thing called email.  “Hey there, Chiquita.  Are you going to be around at Christmas?”  The girl wasn’t clear on how those words had travelled to her all the way from Montreal to Hamilton in a heart beat but she couldn’t help but love them.  She smiled for a long time after reading those words.  They were like ice-cold lemonade to her in the hot, stuffy, too-small, too-complicated, too-predestined undergraduate world she was living in just then.

They didn’t actually see each other that Christmas.  It wasn’t until May that she joined him back at the summer camp.

They smiled a lot in those summer days.  They played euchre and guitar and footsies.  They talked and wrote letters and whispered good-night messages to each other over the primitive camp radios.  He introduced her to Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, and Ani DiFranco.  She introduced him to John Calvin, Darlene Zschech, and her whole entire extended family.  They couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.  Or their hands.  Everything seemed new and unexpected and good.  They found each other under the willow tree hidden at the back of the graveyard down the road.  They went on formal dates in the city, along Queen street and at My Apartment.  “How’s your mom?” was the code for “I’m liking you” in front of the campers.

And then, after a few months of this, a change.

He found a quiet place in a barn full of activity.  “I’ve seen love go by my door, it’s never been this close before. Never been so easy or so slow…Dragon clouds so high above, I’ve only known careless love. It always has hit me from below.  This time it’s more correct, right on target, so direct.  You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.” With his guitar in hand, he sang her the most beautiful love song she’d ever heard.  In a few weeks she would be heading back to Hamilton and he would take the train in the opposite direction to Montreal.  But in those moments time really did seem to stand still.  His singing turned to whispered words: I love you.

Like that first email, she had not seen this coming.  She had not anticipated that he could love her already.  Her silence following those words probably wasn’t what he had hoped for or expected but she could not figure out how to move her mouth, her tongue.  She had been muted by those words that were drilling their way through to her heart.

That was fifteen years ago.

Looking back on it now, she sees how very much that scene foreshadowed the years to come.  He saw her, loved her, and waited for her to understand.  He stayed steady when she was lost in muteness.  He wasn’t scared by love or by her messiness or by commitment.  When his friends were fleeing to the Gold Coast of Australia, he was buying a diamond ring that would, once again, arrive so unexpectedly. In those fifteen years he was always ready first for the next step and always patient when it took her a little longer.  He found ways to carve out space so that her dreams were never compromised and in those moments when she was ready to walk away in the face of “too much” or “too hard” or “too long”, he reminded her that she was everything she was supposed to be with or without a title.  And then he cooked supper, changed the babies, and screened her phone calls so that she could go back to the computer and keep pushing through.

And today, she still smiles when she hears him singing. She can handle the first dozen or so Dylan songs but after that she makes no promises.  In return, he’s learned a little Blue Rodeo and Indigo Girls.

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Text-less Dating

I remember my students’ reaction when I told them my dating career was accomplished entirely without texting.  Or cell phones. Or even email for the most part (*story to follow).

“How did that even work?”

I told them it was so long ago, I couldn’t remember!  I’m pretty sure half of them missed the humour.  

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The Parable of the Sock Drawer

Lucy had a sock drawer that confounded her.  No matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t seem to keep that sock drawer tidy and organized.  She had seen her sisters’ sock drawers.  Their socks and underwear sat beside each other in perfect communion, neither one spilling over into the other’s territory.  Her sock drawer, on the other hand, wouldn’t qualify for trespassing infringements because there were no territories, no carefully grouped communities of socks or underwear.  Every few months she would empty that sock drawer and try to create some order out of the chaos.  But then it was never that simple.  Because her socks never seemed to come back in pairs.  And what were you supposed to do when your ballet tights got mixed up with your church tights? And for the life of her she could not keep her underwear folded – they were too small to be folded anyway she said to soothe herself.

The truth is she desperately craved a tidy sock drawer.  She wanted order in that most intimate of places.  But she couldn’t quite figure out how to coax order though she tried again and again.

As she got older, things only got more complicated.  When she changed bedrooms she was given a bigger dresser.  Perhaps this would solve her sock drawer dilemmas.  Perhaps what she needed was more space.  But order was not conjured in a bigger space.  All that was conjured was a more complicated disorder.  Lucy as a teenager had new items in the sock drawer – things she wanted to stay hidden under the tangle of stray socks and unfolded underwear.  Things that were made of silk and lace.  Things her mother would never approve of.

Perhaps when she was an adult, when she had her own place, when she got married, when she had children, then she would learn the secret of the tidy sock drawer.  But as each of those happened in succession, the sock drawer remained her guilty secret.  Even sharing a room with her lover wasn’t enough to inspire order in that drawer.

And then one day it struck her.  She needed to figure out what belonged in that drawer and what was an intruder.  What did she need for day-to-day life and what was in there only to stoke fantasies or hide deep shames?  She’d emptied and rearranged her sock drawer so many times in her life that she hesitated to do it yet again.  Perhaps this was her fate – a life of messy undergarment storage.  She thought carefully.  It took her months of pondering. Until one day, she knew she was ready.

When the house was quiet, her children at school, her lover at work, she began.  She emptied that sock drawer onto her bed.  And even before she began the sorting she sat and looked at the empty wooden drawer.  For a long time.  Seeing something she hadn’t seen before.  And then one by one she went through the items.  If it wasn’t part of her real life, she put it in the discarded pile.  If it wasn’t something she needed to be ashamed of any longer, those garments of silk and lace, she hung them in her closet.  If it didn’t have a matching partner, it went in the garbage.  Before she knew it, there in front of her was order.  Simplified, real-life, no-hiding order.

She placed her dark socks in front of her white, athletic socks.  She found a folding pattern that kept her underwear in place.  And her bras?  Well they lined up perfectly along one side of the drawer where she wouldn’t have to sift through to find the right one.  She found she even had room for her bathing suits in this newly laid out landscape.

After it was done, she sat again and looked at the drawer for a long time.  There was something so beautiful, so honest, so practical about her sock drawer now – she knew she’d done it.  She’d found her way out of the intimates’ chaos.  She couldn’t stop smiling.  She was unspeakably proud of herself.

When her family came home, she showed them the drawer one by one.  While the children didn’t yet understand the significance of her tidy drawer, her husband did.

What happened that day inspired Lucy to apply these same techniques to other drawers.  It took time and still the process continues, little by little.  Her drawers are falling into something that looks like peace.

Harmony

There is something about a tight harmony that makes me believe good things about the world.

Simon and Garfunkel – Sound of Silence

Indigo Girls – Least ComplicatedImage

Blue Rodeo – Is it You

Serena Ryder/ Jian Ghomeshi – Please, Baby Please

Tragically Hip – Ahead By a Century

Clint Black/Wynona Judd – A Bad Goodbye

Pink and Nate Ruess – Just Give Me a Reason (This is one steamy video!)

Anna, Martha and Rufus – Mendocino

Les Cowboys Frignants – Toune d’automne

Frank and Nancy Sinatra – Something Stupid

These are some of my favourites.  Any to share??

A Room of One’s Own

Fantasies change.  Today my deepest fantasy involves aloneness, quiet, and wide open time.  Days of it.  Space to write without any of the day-to-day mundaneness of regular life. The thought of it makes me giddy.  Do we always fantasize about that which is unattainable?

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