new look

September 2021 was the last time I posted. In these little baby steps in returning to writing more, I thought I would mess around with a new look for the website. Not sure that this will be the version that I settle on but it will do for now. Sunflowers are my favorite flower (next to roses) and after such a long hard (and very grey) winter here in Ontario, Canada, I need to see blue sky every time I visit to post.

As the days move on I will likely find more photos from the archives to share but will mainly focus on keeping everything simple and ‘clean’ looking. I will write more about this later, but two years of lockdowns with this pandemic has proven to me that I can live with simplicity. I can live, not just survive but thrive in it. More reflection to come on that soon.

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hopping a barbedwire fence

Many years ago, I had the privilege of being part of a writing group called Diving Deeper. There were many writers from all over the world who gathered together to talk about writing, about going deeper into our story telling, and diving into the places we really didn’t want to write about. Being able to write, share and get to know this group of writers was a very special time for me both as a writer and as a person. It was with this group I learned about distance, about trying not to write about something personal for example, that was traumatic or intense for a few years, sometimes as long as five years because the time between will help you to be able to move past some of the raw emotions tied to the event. I think this concept must have seeped into my soul because it has been a long time since I have like writing anything at all.

In fact, it has been two years maybe more since I even attempted to keep a journal of any kind. Daily writing has been very difficult for me to do, like running straight into the barbed wire instead of hopping over it like a graceful gazelle. I have tried to write even a few lines every day but it never lasts for more than day or so. I have been thinking about why that is today. I think it has a lot to do with the dramatic and drastic changes that the pandemic has brought to not just my life, but to everyone’s (the global scale overwhelms me to think about). My recent return to working in the office is also dramatic change from working in relative isolation in my apartment for the past 2 years. The pandemic of course is not over but protocols and mandates are changing or being lifted. I think that it has all been too intense and too immediate for me to be able to get the distance I need to be able to write about any of it. At the same time, I need to write about it. At least some of it. Maybe all of it.

I am not big on grand declarations. This one is not meant to be one of them (although it seems like it is growing into one) but it is a starting point. Like hopping a barbed wire fence when you have a niggling thought in your head. There was a time when I couldn’t stop writing. There was so much buzzing around in my mind. I don’t know if I am going to be able to dive into anything. I am not sure if anything I write now, whether it is fiction or non-fiction will be possible, but I feel an inner push to try. Maybe it is a desire to get some balance back into my life, the fire I hold for writing or maybe something entirely different, but I am waking up in the middle of the night thinking about writing. That is usually a pretty good sign to get back to it. There are stories percolating which have been at a low boil for almost a hundred months now. They are starting to beg to be written. Not only are the stories are asking for attention, but poems, thoughts and dreams are asking to be recorded. I can’t even remember the last time a poem has woken me up or made me stop in the middle of doing something so that I could write it down, but it has been happening. It is good. Not that I have actually listened and written anything down yet, but it is good that the feeling has returned.

All this to say that I plan on writing more, soon. What will arrive? I have no idea. If nothing arrives, I have a couple of notebooks filled with fragments of poetry and stories that I could type out. The little writing that I have been doing has been handwritten. We will see what happens. I may even write about what the past two years have been like for me. I have really resisted the idea of writing about what pandemic life has been like, and what my personal experience has been. I am not sure that it will be at all interesting for anyone else to read but I have never let that stop me from being able to write for myself. I think I need to do that, write for myself. I had a niggle when I just typed this… write for myself. I have repeated it three times now so I really must do it.  

Anyway, more to come.

la

10 years

I think about you often.

There have been moments over the past ten years when I have thought/ asked myself what would you have told me to do. There have been times when I have heard your voice in my head saying ‘ What is she doing?” like you used to when you were not happy with me.

A couple of weeks ago, I actually heard your voice on a video that I found in my photo archive that was taken on your camera a few months before you died. I had never seen it before. It had been on your camera and I had saved the files but never looked at them. I cried after hearing it. The tears came like water through a faucet. It surprised me that after all these years, hearing it would affect me like that. I realized then, that the way I see you has changed.

Grief and time have changed the lens that I look back through. I can’t speak for anyone else who knew you. I can only share what I feel now.

Today it has been ten years since I held your hand in Parkwood. Sat beside you until you left your body behind, then I drove home from the hospital, numb and unable to process anything that had happened leading up to that moment when I saw and felt you take that last breath. Life became very different and difficult after that.

I can’t remember the number of times that I have tried to articulate how I have grieved your death. I didn’t not share publically necessarily, but to help myself heal, at least to start the healing that needed to happen.

Grief I have come to understand does not have an end date and changes with time. I have been told over the years by different people that I should just get over it, get over the loss, your death, other endings. That I should just let it go and move on. Your death came at a time in my own life that was already so filled with deep loss, that watching you die became intermingled with so much pain and sadness that I did not know how to separate it from the living that I had to do at the time.

I wrote the following for you and gave the eulogy at your funeral. I like to believe that you were there to hear it then. It feels important that you (and I) might hear it again:


A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.- Dorothy C. Fisher

Last November, I flew to Nova Scotia to drive Mom home to London, for what would be her last trip to the east coast. I have driven those highways more than a few times over the past few years with my daughters, but this was the first time with my Mom. As we drove through the different cities and towns along Highway 2, 20 and 401. We had a lot of time to just talk; 22 hours in fact. Mom told me many stories about her life, stories of places and people along the way.

Somewhere just past the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we sang the entire John Denver Greatest Hits CD, one of her favourites. We reminisced about our time together as a family. We laughed remembering the Christmas when we had to cook the turkey and heat up the tortière in the fireplace because the ice storm had knocked out the power. DeeDee, Grandfather and Cousin Lois were visiting, and tuna fish just wouldn’t cut it. We remembered the time Rob and Darryl made a go cart when we were still living in the farmhouse, and how Rob launched Darryl off the steep ramp they had built, into the piles of leaves they had raked up. Darryl flew, arms flailing high into the air, then disappeared into the leaves. After some minutes he emerged with a huge grin on his face, ready to go again. Mom breathed a huge sigh of relief, and then went for a spin herself.

Mom loved to do many things, and I will remember her in this way. Mom loved to make jam and jellies. I can still hear the pop of the lids when the jam jars set. She was unafraid to steal, I mean, borrow, crab apples even from the front lawn of the church in Kinburn to make jelly. (or from any church lawn for that matter). Blooming crab apple trees in spring were her favourite.

She loved to sing in the choir. I remember many times listening to her and Katie, when we were younger, sit at the piano together, to sing hymns in two part harmony. She loved to take long walks by the ocean, to do jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. If she had been a contestant on Jeopardy she surely would have won.

She loved to teach, and had a passion for learning; most of all to help others learn. On this last drive together, she told me about the children she had taught over the years at the various schools that she had taught at, especially Erskine Johnson and Fitzroy Centennial Public School in Ottawa. After all those years, she could still remember everything about those kids, especially the hardest students to teach. She loved children – especially her grandchildren, her nieces and nephews and her own children – all of us.

When we drove through Hudson, Quebec, Mom told me stories about her childhood – spending her summers as a teen, golfing, playing basketball in high school with her friends, and golfing. She talked about how close she felt to her friends growing up in the small community, and how wonderful it was to reconnect with them at their high school reunion not so long ago.

She told me stories about her time at Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland, and travelling with DeeDee to Italy over her school holidays. She really loved to travel. She had many fond stories about the different places she had been, and especially of her cruise to Alaska with Dad, Uncle Bill and Aunt Jan.

Something happened on that trip back from Nova Scotia that I will never forget. As we drove into Drummondville on the first night, I saw a brilliant turquoise falling star. So bright, brighter than I had ever seen before. I was just about to ask Mom if she had seen it too, when she turned to me and asked that very question. Neither of us had imagined seeing the star fall. I pulled off to the side of the highway, and we both made wishes at that very moment.

Mom had a drive and iron will unmatched by anyone that I have ever known. Her passion ensured that she lived her life in her own way. She was not afraid to speak her mind, be direct or call you out on something she didn’t agree with. No one dared to steal the corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that she was working on… ok, maybe I did but no one ever could prove that.

I am deeply grateful for sharing this life with Mum. It wasn’t always easy but she had a profound effect on my life. She has touched the lives of many people throughout the years. I know that I would not be the person I am today, if Mom had not been part of it. She pushed me to look at the world with a critical eye, to push myself to be more than I thought I could ever be. Though we may not have shared the same blood, we had a special bond together that I am grateful to have shared.

Sweet butterfly
unfold your wings
you are free now
rise up to the sky, little darling
we are here now in the glow
of everything that you are
oh little butterfly
the pain of change is over now
go into the winds and softer breezes
dance as only you can
in this new and golden light
our hearts are overflowing
fingertip to fingertip to wing
we touch
lovely butterfly
we begin
~

Thank you Mom, for everything that you have given to me, to our family, and to everyone.
Thank you for the gift of you.

July 29, 2010

~

I think about the time we shared just before you passed. I am grateful for it because it planted a seed that took ten years to flower and help me understand many things I did not at the time. Now that I am older, I understand how it is better to look back on everything with a compassionate and open heart and to let that past be what it was. The past cannot be changed. I have learned to allow myself to feel, especially when I have been told by others how I should and what to feel.

In many ways, all of it had to happen in order to shape the person that I am today. It has been part of a lifetime of learning, evolving, and growing that I am not wiling to dismiss or ignore. I will spend today thinking and remembering with a softer heart than I had before.

The path of the pandemic this year has very much echoed the events that occurred ten years ago. When I began this year I felt that it would be a year, among other things, a year of forgiveness. I am learning in a deep way to sit with forgiveness, wrestle with it and embrace it. I wish that you were here so that we could talk about it in person. Since we can’t, this letter to you will have to do.

standing with family

31 years ago, I stood with the children of a family I lived with in Senegal, West Africa, while on a Canada World Youth program in 1989.

These are the children helped to change my life in ways I have not fully been able to articulate. Not even sure I could now. They helped me to understand life and death, helped me to be me without me being able to speak their language properly or at all, helped me to find joy. I am so deeply grateful to have had that chance to become their friend even for a short time.

Their mother was a traditional doctor, and took care of everyone – her family, her extended family, the villagers of Diakene Diola and the surrounding villagers in the part of the Casamance where we lived. She took care of me when I was sick with malaria. Their father worked as a nurse in at a field hospital in another village/ town.

The kids and I played together whenever we were at the house – which lead to a lot of laughter and singing. I would spend the small allowance I would get from the program to buy them soccer balls and treats for them.  We got water together, collected fruit, ate meals together and I walked with them to their school.

The children and their grandmother used to call me Akibio. When we played together, the kids would rub and pat my arms to make sure I wasn’t lying about the colour of my skin. They were sure my skin was dark underneath the white paint. It made them laugh because no matter how hard they tried, I just turned pink instead of the colour they hoped I would be underneath. This impacted me on so many levels. I have not written a lot about what that period of my life was like for me. One day maybe I will. In the end, when they did try to scratch away at the surface, I would point to my heart, cover it with my hand and then point to them. I would say “mon coeur, ton coeur, même coeur” (which also made them laugh because as an anglophone just learning the French language, I had not mastered pronunciation at all). Underneath it all, we have the same heart. Now they have all grown up, had families of their own. I think about that time in my life and about them almost every day. We took this photograph together so that I could have it printed and sent to the family to have. So we could remember. I am so glad that I still have it.

The lives of these children were not easy in any way. They all had dreams and hopes for the future. Their mother, father, grandmother had dreams for them. The situation they found themselves in living where they did was not so different from anywhere else in the world, except they had very little in the way of material things back then. To me, they were rich beyond measure in what they had in family. The children most often left the village to move to bigger cities to got to school if they were lucky, and in pursuit of jobs and better lives.

Most did not want riches and fame when they left the village. They wanted to earn enough to send home to their families to make sure there was enough food for everyone, but sometimes there wasn’t. They wanted to earn enough so their younger brother or sister could go to school and be trained for a job too. They wanted to earn enough to be able to get the medicine they needed to stay healthy. They wanted what we take for granted: food, running water, electricity, clothing, a roof over their heads and for those they love to have the same. They had the hope to dream. The youngest of my Senegalese family was named Opportun. Her name spoke so loudly about these hopes and dreams.

This experience was a turning point for me – a huge (and sometimes hard and harrowing) blessing to my life. I learned so much about life itself while there. We weren’t there to change anything. We did not go to convert or build or influence the lives of anyone we were living with. We were there to learn, to help where we could and ultimately broaden our understanding of the world around us.

Because of this family, these children, I went on to do many things to help children like them, to help families, to help others follow those dreams. I came home to Canada, ready to go to university and got my degree in Anthropology and French. , I started working with children and families with low incomes in London, ON in 1991. 29 years later I am still doing it – working and volunteering to help locally and internationally. I volunteered with Arts for Aids International (now 17 Colours) for fifteen years. Now I work for an organization who operations homeless shelters and runs addiction and mental health programs. I became a mother in the midst of all of that and have raised my two children to view the world with clear open eyes, to fight against what is wrong in the way they can, to call out injustice and to care for those who are in need.

I don’t share this to give the impression that I have any say or voice in what is happening today. I share this because I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to bring hope, love and compassion to the forefront. I do not see this as weakness but as part of the force of change.

When there are people everywhere, here in London, around the world, who do not have the same opportunity to follow the path that is laid out in front of them, we must advocate for systematic change. That change is coming. It is like birthing a child. It is painful and at times excruciating. It is also filled with deep love.

This change requires us to lift up and amplify those voices that need to be heard right now. It’s not enough to be satisfied to hear there is a problem, any more than it is to see it. The work has to be done to change it. Every single day, not just today. When I am called upon to help I will be there. In the meantime, I am standing with everyone, in the background.

la

#blacklivesmatter

peace of mind and a Nan blanket

It has been 36 days since I started working from home. I didn’t start when the many others day a week before because I work for an essential service, but when it was decided it was best for those who could work from home to do so, I packed up my work, set up an office for the first time in my life at home.

Like many others, that days have brought waves of different emotions, a lot of anxiety and concern for my adult children, loneliness and isolation. It is a kind of darkness that is hard to get out of sometimes, but working full-time hours still helps. I am still volunteering for another nonprofit that I love, that helps but also comes with its own kind of heartache. I sit on the board and like many other summer festivals, we just had to postpone until next year. In amongst all of the stress, worry, anxiety and grief, I find being creative in any way that calls to me the best way to climb out of the darkness. A couple of weeks ago, I started making a new blanket. Before then I was trying to decide what to make, what to do, and nothing was really settling me down. Then I watched the first episode of Tom Power’s “What’re Ya At” on CBC. (definitely check it out.. it’s wonderful)

I listened while he interviewed frontline workers and others about how things were going for them during this pandemic lockdown, but my eyes were glued to the beautiful handmade blanket his Nan made for him. It hung on the back of his sofa like a beacon. I suddenly had the inspiration I needed to make myself a special blanket to take my mind off of the abject loneliness I had been feeling – still feel most days right now.

I am lucky. My grandmother, Bertha and great Aunt Jan (Joanna) both taught me valuable skills as a very young age. My grandmother taught me to bake, can, quilt and knit. My great aunt taught me how to crochet (and bake too, her sticky bun recipe is a treasure). For as long as I can remember, I have wrapped myself up in yarn work, have made many blankets that have been given away as gifts over the years to friends and family, and over the past couple of years donated blankets to fundraisers to help my neighbours who are at risk or experiencing homelessness. I have spent hours with these blankets, knitting and crocheting them like they were long hugs going to someone else. Doing that brings me peace of mind.

Each stitch grounds me in the memory of my grandmother and great aunt and reminds me that whatever goes on around me I can at least make something bright and cheerful at the end of the day. I still have quilts and tablecloths that they made me years ago when they were both still alive. I passed on their legacy to both of my children, teaching them everything that I know. It is not so common now to share these traditional arts, to teach them and embrace them. I was so struck by the way that Tom proudly displayed his Nan’s blanket. How could I not be? It was what I needed to see in that moment – to be touched by that sweet, precious care of a bright, cheerful handmade blanket.

I counted the number of squares I have made since April 12th… 72. That’s almost halfway there. There’s no way to rush making this blanket, I have to make one square at a time. It’s just like getting through this current lockdown. Have to take it one day at a time. Before I know it, it will all be done. (I will update when I am actually finished the blanket).

any ordinary day project

I started a project that I am calling ‘any ordinary day’ not so long ago, in an effort to redirect some anxiety and stress that I was feeling while in lockdown due to Covid-19. I am not sure how well it is doing to help me, but I am enjoying sharing some black & white photography on my Instagram art account: @leifraserart

Today I shared 20/365 ordinary days. I’m sharing randomly, photos that remind me of ordinary days that I maybe spent wandering with my children in the woods, in the park or at the beach; maybe just staying at home and photographing around the house.

I need to be reminded that there is beauty in ordinary days, when the days feel extra heavy like they do today. I need to be reminded that I can see that beauty, and have many times – more than a years worth I am certain.

For the days I miss hugging my children, seeing friends, family, coworkers, anyone, this collection save a place until I can go out once again with my camera.

~

la

change

my face reflects in the window
blue lit gaze
my fingers move
across keys
while I watch the rain
the days blur into each other
even checking the calendar
can be dangerous
I counted three times 
before I was sure
that sixteen days had passed
water drops mix with fog 
on the glass
I tap the screen 
to make them dance
some fall away 
only to be replaced by others
night is quiet now
after the storm has passed
sleep steels me
in this cocoon 
until tomorrow

~
day 7 
national poetry month

Any Ordinary Day

I was thinking earlier today that it is time to start working on a new book. I put together this book in October 2008 – my first foray into putting anything anything into print. I did it for myself, for my daughters as well. It was good work, a fun project to work on and a push for me to do something more with my writing and photography than keep it hidden (which was essentially what I had been doing prior to that). I don’t know what I will create from the scads & scraps but, it will be fun to think about. I have a couple of ideas kicking around in the old brain socket though…

You can still preview the first fifteen pages of Any Ordinary Day here if you like. Creating this book was such a positive boost for me personally. I know that it doesn’t count in the actual publishing world – which is just fine. I didn’t work on this project for that reason. Sometimes, I just need to do things for the sake of doing them – to say yes, I can do this. I think I have another go and unleash my creative self! One of my May projects just decided. Whoooo!

{imagine.create.become} day 31 of my inspiration project

It’s the last day of my 31 day inspiration project. I have been sitting quietly at my desk, catching up on emails, paperwork and  phone calls- everything that piled up over the past two days that I was off sick (it piles up so quickly believe me), and in foothills of the mountain that I am sitting in front of, I can’t help but be thankful that every day this month I was able to find something to inspire me. Even in the most difficult and darkest times in my life, I have been able to do this. In fact, this is why I wrote this:

We must find the beauty in the darkest of days,
find laughter in the deep silence of the soul
to truly understand the great gift that this life
brings to us each and every ordinary day.

I wrote it to remind myself that every day, it is possible. It is possible to imagine, to create and to become. Those words together, imagine.create.become , I have adopted as a kind of mantra. I adopted them years ago in fact after receiving gift of a silver bracelet with those words stamped on the band. It is possible each day to tune in and be inspired. It is possible to find something that moves you, evokes some emotional response (from happy to furious), that makes you comfortable or very uncomfortable. The what isn’t good or bad – what is important is that it pushes you out of your seat, pokes at your brain, makes you think, makes you start to see the world from a different angle, triggers a spark in you that allows you to be creative and express something.

Someone once said to me a long while ago: “I am not creative – I can’t paint or draw or write or dance or play an instrument or sing.” I will say now what I said then (and have said many times to different people since). Being creative, being inspired, does not have to result in picking up a paint brush or a guitar or a pen. I know some amazing people who are artists with a blow torch, a wrench, a computer keyboard and so many other traditionally “unartistic” things. What does it really mean to be inspired? Does it have to be only about art? Why limit yourself? Why limit your thinking?

When I am allowing myself to become inspired by something – it isn’t necessarily to do anything traditionally ‘artistic’. Instead, for me, it is allowing myself to become more open to something new, even just for a few moments, in such a way that I may just have the opportunity to experience the world in a new way. That direct experience, and its expression through my own eyes, fingers, voice… that’s what makes inspiration have meaning for me.It is also what pushes me to share it.

Now that the month is over, I have thirty-one little pebbles jingling around in my pockets to remind me as I walk on.

~

{imagine.create.become} day 29 & 30

Been out with the flu the past couple of days but am on the mend now I think… I didn’t want to miss posting the inspiration from the time I’ve spent resting and essentially doing nothing (which is very hard for me to do) I did read a bit in between sleeping and came across this passage by Deng Ming Dao about views:

Red sea through pine lattice.
Islands kneel like vassals before headlands.
Rain clouds snag on coastal ridges.
Yarrow stands spectral in the lighthouse beam.
~

“our view of any one subject if it is large, is never whole but is a composite image in our minds…”

I would also say that this is true of small and medium sized ‘things’ too… Everything depends on the view to be ‘known’ and even then what do you really know?

20110330-101951.jpg

{imagine.create.become} day 28

 

bad wolf.

Lately, my daughters have become flashed with Dr. Who. I will admit, I am thrilled. You see, I grew up with the Doctor (original Doctor with the beautiful long scarf that I so wanted to have as my own) but for whatever reason – never made the time to watch the new series, at least not often. It wasn’t until I went to see an old friend at the beginning of this year – he and I watched a lot of season five almost that week… and well obviously I was hooked again. I have been talking with my girls since about watching the series… but it is impossible to rent the dvd’s. We tried to no avail.. instead we had to resort to buy them… but just before we did – Space started show them from the beginning of season 1 – which is how my daughters became hooked. Whooo. Tonight we watched the season finale of season 1… the Daleks vs. the Doctor. My youngest declared that the Daleks are a bunch of grade 8 girls (it’s ok – she’s in gr. 8 and knows what she’s talking about)… Rose and the Doctor… the bad wolf. The inspiration today is a speech that Rose gives when the Doctor sends her home and she is sitting in the diner with her mum and Mickey. The Doctor taught her how to live each day – not to sit and do nothing, let life happen – instead he showed her a different way – to do something, fight for what you believe in, stand up and be heard. It’s like a bloody kick to the chest but it’s true. There are moments when you just have to stand up and be heard.

There’s that – and also a quote of Deng Ming Dao that is sticking in my head. He wrote once about how vomiting is an action of the human body that allows you to be completely present, in the moment. When you throw up, you can’t be anywhere else.

Today – both of these concepts inspire me…. thought quite honestly I could do without the vomiting.

{imagine.create.become} day 27

I loathe the expression “What makes him tick.” It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.
~ James Thurber

 

Today my inspiration comes from being complicated. 🙂