and then she came

at supper tonight i was retelling the tale of how eleven years ago i went into labour on a wednesday.   a wednesday just like today.  ivy stopped me to tell the story herself.  i loved watching her tell ezra how i was teaching yoga and my water broke.  i laughed and reminded them that i thought i had peed my pants.  they laughed and ivy joked about how funny it would have been if i had gone to the bathroom and had her there.  still laughing i told her that that was one of my fears.  she asked (slightly incredulously) if babies are ever born on the toilet.  i said yes.  sometimes.  and i quietly remembered my old neighbour mary.  she shared many birth stories with me.   mary was in her late seventies or early eighties.  we would sit and have tea.  i loved our time together.  and i loved her stories.  they were detailed.  and interesting.  and sometimes, like her baby born in the toilet story, scary.  i remember her telling me that the doctor had plans for the weekend and gave her some medication so as not to go into labour or some such thing until the monday.  and one thing led to another.  and she found herself in the bathroom at home popping the baby out into the toilet.  i remember asking if the baby actually fell into the toilet water.  i think i asked this many times on many different days.  she didn’t seem to mind.  and she would always answer yes.  if mary were still alive today i would call her up and ask her again.  did the baby really fall into the toilet?  i am easily fooled.  so maybe she pulled a fast one on me.  but either way i became terrified that i too would have my baby in the toilet.  eleven years ago i was worried that my baby would come too fast and end up in the toilet water.  that is super funny to me now because i  really didn’t need to worry about that!  no baby in the toilet for me!

tonight i curled up with ivy before her sleep and quietly remembered being pregnant.  she made me a mama!  and that it is very big gift.  i think that making someone a mama is the wildest thing you can do to someone.  i am certain my mother would agree!

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all these days without you

when i was in university i would wander through new and used bookstores.  they filled me with awe, and hopelessness.  i would trail my eyes across the spines of books lining shelves; books stacked on floors, books propped in windows.  there were so fucking many.  so fucking many.  how could i add to that i wondered?  should i even try? 

DSC_0002before having children i spent lots of time reading novels.  i liked to line my own shelves with them.  i would make satisfying piles by my bed.  they were both comforting and distressing.  at university i studied english with a capital E.   i read so much.  and wrote about what i read.  but what i really wanted was to write a novel myself.

so before having children i braved the beginning of a novel.  i didn’t even know then that i would have children.  i spent years writing and researching.  i spent hours avoiding writing (maybe more like months!).  hours reading my own words aloud.  i spent days and days and days struggling and muscleing with words.  and then i stopped.  i got pregnant and stopped.  i piled the pages in boxes with lids.  i slid the boxes onto my shelf.  for years my words rested beside the words of my favorite authors.  somehow that was enough.  i made it be.

i will be forty in may.  most of the books i read these days are about horses; i read them aloud at night to my children.  i am fueling their fire, i know, but i don’t mind.  i am rather drawn to horses myself.  sometimes, just sometimes, i read just for me.  and when i do i am still equally overwhelmed and inspired.

i took the two small boxes filled with the beginnings of my manuscript and hid them under my desk.  they have been there for over a year now.  i don’t usually open them.  and only a few people have peeked inside.  i am not sure what will happen with this story.  for now i am not ready to begin it again.  maybe it is not ready for me.  i am not sure.

but something fresh is beginning.

DSC_0018i have been holding this dream and this fear of story writing for over 20 years.  i am choosing to breathe both into this dream and into the fear.  i have opened a new word document; and i am beginning again.

i haven’t written a blog post since november.  since my trip to the ocean.  since the winter took me into hibernation.   it is now nearing the end of march.  things are just hinting at thaw.  the feelings i often have in bookstores, the worry that there are too many stories and not enough room for me, explode when i go online.  there are so fucking many blogs, and articles, and videos, and facebook posts.  so much sharing.  so many wonderful things.  and so much nonsense.  sometimes in the midst of all these words i want to hide away.  sometimes i want everyone to simply shut the fuck up.

i suppose this is the balance i seek.  times of quiet.  and times of sharing.  the stories i tell myself and the stories i tell you.  maybe there are never enough stories?  maybe there is room for them all? 

and surely i need to spend more time with my new word document then on facebook!!!!

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i traveled with sue

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sue and i swam in the sea.  we did this every day.  and every day it was this holy shit feeling.  we are swimming in the ocean.  i could see it in her eyes.  the awe.  the gratitude.  the bliss.  i’m sure i had a similar expression.  i felt so buoyant.  and free.

sometimes we giggled like children.  so much was fresh.  so much was new.  like the flying fish jumping.   i yelped in delight every time i saw one.  when they hit the surface, not far from where we swam, and descended back into the water, a spray of smaller silver fish glittered.  sue had lost her prescription sunglasses in the water the day before, but still i continued to shout: “can you see all the little ones flying up? over there! wild!”   we stayed in the water until the sun was low in the sky and our fingers were puckered.  i licked the salt around my lips.

newness was driving on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road.  this newness was awkward.  worse than a sloppy first kiss at 13.  on these daily car treks i sometimes shrieked, but not usually in delight.  sometimes i was grumpy after a day of bizarre (to me) round-a-bouts, narrow roads, and steep climbs with blind corners.  i argued with paul, my dear friend, about the meaning of straight.  no way seemed straight.  nothing seemed like going forward.  it was all rough and curvy.  and i felt lost.  i slowed at every passing car.  and almost froze when buses came near!   i could not enjoy the view!   but a dip in the sea was all i needed to wash away the stink of fear.  and i tried to tell myself that i was getting smarter.  all this other side business.  all this switching it up.

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i was always excited to see fresh papayas and avocados being sold on the side of the road.  thrilled to pick a lime fresh from the tree.  happy to find kale and mizuna and mustard greens at the holder’s farmers’ market.  i enjoyed the smell of freshly brewed bay leaf tea.  and was deeply saddened by the mangoes, falling on the road near paul’s house, never to be eaten.  and just the other day, back at home in guelph, i saw dozens of neglected apples on the roadside half covered in fallen leaves.  same same.  but different.

my travels don’t often take me far from home.  but for the past few years i have been journeying to barbados.  once a year.  and for the last two years sue has joined me.  this year she was my sole retreatant!  i was her personal person!  and she was mine.

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traveling with sue was a gift.  a gift of giving and receiving.   i offered yoga and food and adventure.  she presented me with grace and surrender.  and trust.  we offered as much of ourselves to each other as we knew how.  we shared stories.  we listened.  we watched the moon grow lush and full.  we laughed.  drank from coconuts.   swam.  and swam.  we napped in the shade of beach umbrellas.   and then we swam some more.  we celebrated sue’s 61st birthday.  ate chocolate for breakfast as often as we wanted.  and then we cried.  we mourned the death of her son.  we honoured the 10 year anniversary of his passing.  we looked at his photos.   his little boyness.  his young manness.  his eye twinkle.  his 25 years of life.  sometimes we held back our tears.  i could see it in her eyes.  the ripeness of  her sorrow.  the holding it in.   our travels brought us back again and again to the joy and the sorrow.  the two holding hands, never far apart.  the warm sun against the deep loss.  the loss highly contrasted by our joy.

one day, tired after a full day of trekking, we swam in rough waters and were taken by the current.    it came upon us so suddenly.  one moment we were laughing in the waves.  the next we being being whisked away!  we were terrified.  i saw sue stuck.  unable to swim against the pull.  i followed her not knowing if we would get smashed against a rocky shore.  but unwilling to leave her.  in my haste i made my way, desperately, for rocks.  thinking i was at home in different waters with different rocks.  the waves smashed me against the jaggedness.  but i made my way to the beach with only a few sea urchins embedded in my shin, and fingers, and feet.  sue let the current pull her around the rocks and managed to find a small patch of beach upon which to land.  we looked at each other in shock.  and relief.  and we never swam at that particular spot again!  later, after a long nap and supper, sue took photos of me trying to dig out the hard urchin bits with a needle.

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ever morning, at 6:30, we faced the ocean on our mats.  and almost every evening too.  we sat side by side looking out and breathing in.  our meditation was to receive the sound of the ocean, and the birds, and the music at the bar.  our yoga to be with the dogs that liked our mats as much as we did.  to stretch and strengthen even when people were walking by.  our practice, i think, was to be together.

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our retreat offered us the possibility of being, just being in all our wildness, by the powerful sea.

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sometimes i get up early

yesterday, at 3am, ezra asked me to cover her up.  the blankets must have gotten tangled.  she was cold.  i snuggled her back into blankets, rolled over, and checked the clock.  3am.

3am has become this funny time for me.  if i am woken (by myself or someone else) i can’t seem to fall back asleep!  my mind is full.  telling stories.  planning.  fretting.  working stuff out.  i usually stay in bed while this happens.  but yesterday, after an hour of mind play, i decided to get up.

i rolled out my yoga mat at 4am.  it was a miracle!  i never get up and do yoga.  unless i’m teaching.  i wake up at 5:30am almost everyday.  but it’s to make green juice for folks and get the kids ready for school or go to the farmer’s market.  there have been very rare moments when the girls are with their father that i have done some yoga.  but not like this.  this yoga was more free from self-judgment than i’ve experienced in a long time.  maybe it’s because of the auspicious hour?  maybe it’s because of the week of morning yoga i had taught the week before? or maybe it’s because of what i said before bed?

i twirled my wrists and flicked my fingers.  i laughed and i watched years of yoga teaching roll over me.  all the phases i have been thru.  all the movements i haven’t taught in a while.  poses i love.  poses i don’t.  i was compassionate and funny with myself in a way i usually reserve for others.

yoga photos by ally 026i luxuriated in twisting.  breathed into spots where something has been holding for a long time.  i tried not to push too hard.  i tried not to try.  the holding and stiff spots didn’t disappeared.  i just noticed them.  and breathed.

it was one of those moments.  a more clear than foggy moment.  a rare self kindness hour.

yoga photos by ally 035i am no longer dreading waking at 3am. although i’m not setting the alarm for that hour!  but if i do wake and find i really can’t go back to sleep i might get up and roll my mat out again and see what happens.

before i went to bed i had curled myself up into a ball and i had promised myself that i would take care of me.  that i would love me no matter what.  you see i had been feeling sick for weeks.  tired.  scared of i don’t know what exactly.  scared of death.  scared of failure.  sickness being a failure (in my stories!)  and so i promised to myself again, like a little wedding, to honour myself no matter what.  with or without the yoga.  with or without the cold or flu.  healthy or not.  i was going to remember to keep loving me.  it’s a good promise.  and it’s so strong and deep it’s ok if i break it or i forget!  probably a little something like god.

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all photos by ally

http://allysphoto.com/

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about being alone

there was a small space between my childhood bed and the window.  i remember sitting in that sheltered place playing.  alone.  no one could see me from the doorway.  the bed skirt went all the way to the floor.  i must have spent hours there imagining.  sometimes i played barbies.  sometimes i sulked.  i attempted journal entries.  i stared up and out the window at the large maple tree that formed my view.  i read books for hours on the small couch near the kitchen.  the couch was behind a half wall and i felt insulated.  as soon as i could drive i went for walks in the forest.  alone.  i was happy to.  no one forced to me be alone.  i had sweet friends to play with.  but i always returned to solo adventures.

i am alone right now.  i have been mostly alone since monday evening.  it is wednesday now.  the girls return in a few hours.

i know alone as a small space between sharing myself with my children and my boyfriend and my students and my customers.  i do not know alone for weeks or years or decades.  i do not know how that might be.  what i do know is that this small space between, this time with me, is awesome.  i am not sure what i like most about it.  but i do enjoy the “quiet”.  (which is funny because i tend to talk a lot!)  i enjoy “small things”.  the simplicity of taking out the garbage in the early early morning.  cutting my small lawn at dusk.  filling the bird feeder to overflowing.  it is a freedom.  and sometimes a peace.  to choose when and where and how.  it is like swimming naked in soft lake water.

sometimes my friends are jealous.  they want to be alone too.  or they think they do.  and i understand.   (or i think i do!)  perhaps not everyone needs to be divorced to find this kind of time.  and maybe i shouldn’t tell them that this time comes with a flip side.  maybe i shouldn’t joke that it is my perk.  but that is what i think.  i was given something bitter and something sweet.  and all these years later it still feels that way.  bitter and sweet like dandelion and raspberry.  maybe one is not more medicinal than the other.

when i am alone now i like to vacuum.  and take photographs of flowers.  i like picking salad from my backyard and eating it with pesto.  i like sitting in the sun.  i prefer to stay home, read a book, and get up early.

i love people.  i love strangers.  my family.  my boyfriend.  my friends.  i love my ex-husband.  and his parents.  we are all interesting and quirky.  we are confusing.  beautiful and utterly devastating.  we are everything.  i love people watching.  i love sitting close.  i like eavesdropping.  and sharing stories with shop keepers.

but it is clear to me now that i am restored by solitude.  i am brought back to existence.  this is why i have been longing to rest in that space between my bed and the window.  and even if i close my eyes i will enjoy the view of the linden tree flowering.

because everything changes and solitude transforms into familial wildness; and i continue to dance in all the ways a mother dances.

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a birthing day

i love birthdays.  i love presents.  and flowers.  and cake.

i love photographs.  and sometimes i don’t even mind the things they leave out.

ten years ago today i gave birth to a beautiful baby.  a beautiful being.  she arrived in the midst of a wild april storm.  wind.  hail.  snow.  rain.  i can still hear the hard rain pelleting the hospital window.  it was a difficult labour.  my fear of birthing accidentally in the toilet was not warranted!  she did not come fast.  her shoulders were caught on my pelvic bones.  the room became the storm.  and i the middle.  her head out.  shoulders caught.  immense  panic.  everything slowed and quickened simultaneously.  i can almost hear them yelling at me to push.  i can almost feel the nurse (was she standing on my bed?) pushing down on my belly.  i can see mark, in shock, standing by my bedside.  i did not hear her bones break.  i did not feel the cold of the forceps.  but i saw.  i saw the looks on their faces.

but she was perfect.  perfect.  with a bruise near her eye where the metal must have clamped.  she was gorgeous.  i could have looked at her all night long.  maybe i did.  i listened to the howling of the wind against the hospital wall and learned to nurse on my side.  i was in love.  nothing else mattered.

my body carries the story of her arrival.  i think my belly (even a decade later) is still a little shaken; a little unsure.  i think the little extra skin, the little extra fat is a blanket of protection.  and it has yet to be convinced that it is safe to go away.  i have bits that are rarely seen, bits that have gone slack.  there are even some small parts that have almost fully surrendered.  and lines.  lines that do not seem to connect.  but if you followed them they would tell you everything.  even things that i do not yet know.

ten years is a wild time to mother.  i want to say that this is a beautiful thing.  and an ugly thing.  i am both beautiful and ugly.  i have seen all that in me.  and in them.  i have seen it too in their father.  the sweetness and the cruelty.  the love and the hatred.   the impatience.  the fatigue.  and the sweetness again.  the loving.  the growing.  and growing.  and growing.

i think my heart is growing bigger.  i think it is.  and then sometimes it grows small again.  retracts into an old way.  sometimes i am full of patience.  i am calm and even while the children fight.  i hear what they are saying.  i see them.  and then sometimes i am short and harsh and demanding.  sometimes i am a dictator demanding peace.  sometimes i can watch it all and laugh.  i am a woman living in a house with two young children.  i have done this for almost five years now.  sometimes it is easy.  and sometimes it is hard.  maybe it’s just life.  easy and hard.  beautiful and ugly.  sweet and spicy.

every year, for their birthday, i make a photo album.  i print my favourite photos from the year.  i place one or two images on a page, no words, in a simple black book.  i find photos from every season.  i made one just last week for ivy.  it is awesome.  snow pictures.  cottage pictures.  beautiful smiles.  playful kittens.  laughing eyes.  marshmallows and sunsets.  there are no photos of crying or ranting or unkindness.  i have only showed the pleasant side.  and i realized, maybe a month ago, when the girls, and matthew, and i were looking at many years worth of photographs that we look really happy.  you might not be able to pinpoint when my husband left me.  you wouldn’t know what birthday party was the most heart wrenching.

i guess birthdays remind me of it all.  the true deepness of this life.  the fury and rage.  the lightness and joy.  the confusion.  this birth day i  am thinking about how my days are a blend.  how the years are a mixture.  how my life is all of it.  so full.  so rich.  so clean and dirty.

i surely carry, deep in my skin, deep in my bones, the stretch marks of my ancestors.  i am thinking of my great grandmothers tonight.  ukrainian.  metis.  french canadian.  scottish? i am trying to picture them holding my grandmothers and my grandfathers.  nursing them.  did they have bare feet in the garden?  how did they speak to their children?  did they enjoy sex?  what was their deepest fear?  why were they angry?  what did they hide? i imagine their secrets flow in my blood.  and move too in my children.  a melange of it all.

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a love letter to my father

“In American psychotherapy, the first question many practitioners ask their new clients is essentially, “What did your parents do to you to mess you up so badly?” One of my Japanese friends tells me that in his country, a therapist is more likely to ask, “What did your parents do for you? How did they nurture and support you?”

Without dismissing the possibility that your mom and dad did inflict damage on you, I’ll ask you to concentrate on the Japanese-style inquiry for now. What are the best things that happened to you when you were growing up? What did your family and community give you that you’ve never fully appreciated?” Rob Brezney’s Free Will Astrology.

this is a love letter to my father.

ezra's 5 birthday and bee pollen and stones 071i told my daughters recently that when i was a little girl (maybe five years old) i thought i was going to grow up and marry you.  i  remember this so vividly.  i can feel it:  the overwhelming love.  i believed that this is how my life was suppose to go: you was going to be my husband.  i was concerned about mom.  i worried she would be too sad.  but i loved you so much.  and perhaps that is how i understood that you would be mine forever.  when i was five it wasn’t a metaphor.  i really believed that you would be my husband.  the girls and i giggle at my understanding of growing up.  and i laugh because i was so astute!  and they laugh because i was so silly!  and both are true!

this is a love letter to you father.

you has always taken care of me the best way you knew how.  you are a provider extraordinaire.  you are a very hard worker.  you began working in your father’s insurance business in your early twenties.  yesterday you turned 68 and you are still working (and running) that business.  you are dedicated and diligent.  you are a people person.  i remember walking around the mall with you, i was still young enough that i held your hand, and watching as you said hi to what seemed like everyone.  you are warm and friendly.  and i think you are a great boss.  you have had many of the same employees for over 20 years.  i greatly admire your skill with money.  it is something i have yet to really figure out.  you continue to help me, even though i am an adult, with generous gifts that bring great ease to my life.

this is a love letter to my papa.

you are funny.  you laugh long and loud.  you love to joke and tease.  this was not always easy for me.  when i was little i would sometimes run to my room and cry.  i would hide my face in a pillow until mom came to find me.  i didn’t think it was funny that you hid my dessert.  and perhaps you didn’t know what to do with such a sensitive child!   i appreciate your sense of humor now.  and the lightness that you bring to life is a gift.  my girls think your sense of humour is hilarious.  they don’t mind when you offer them a beer or a hotdog (which they do not drink or eat!).  they just laugh!

you are fierce.  you can yell. (sometimes because you are scared or worried.)  you can explode.  you can swear.  and fume.  i don’t know for sure, but it seems that you can really let shit go.  express it and move on.  and not hold on to it.  it doesn’t seem as if you hold too many grudges.  and this is awesome.

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you are a dedicated husband.  you have loved my mom the best way you know how.  i am proud of how the two of you have navigated your life.  i have always willed for you to stay together.  even when you fought.  i realized that fighting and misunderstanding is a part of life.  and it does not need to be a end to a relationship.  i am thrilled that you have journeyed together in so many different waters.  you take care of her and provide for her in the same ways that you do for me.  and this is a blessing.  i imagine that it must be hard to mom’s husband sometimes.  i don’t know what it is like for you to have watched her all these years suffer such headaches.  i have never heard you once complain.  i watch as you try to buffer her world, to create a space where there is more ease and less stress for her.  i watch as you love my mother and i am filled with awe.

this is a love letter to my father.

you are incredible during crisis.  and sometimes i forget that.  and so i call mom first.  but you were the calm one when i called about car accident, or when i was pregnant at 23 and then had a miscarriage.  you came to my piece about  sexual violence.  and you came running when my husband left me.

you are a private man.  i wonder how you might feel at this public love letter.  i hope you don’t mind.  my eyes are filled with tears.  i am filled with so much emotion.

i want you to know that i see you as a generous, ethical, dedicated man.  i see you as a powerful, funny, strong man.  i want you to know that i respect you.  i think that i have learned many beautiful things from you.   i am a strong fiery woman.  i am creative.  i am deeply caring.  i am a strong supporter of community.  i support local businesses, especially small ones.  i love people, especially old people.  i am funny!  and sometimes i say the most outrageous things!  i can speak french!  so much of you has nurtured me!  deep gratitude papa!

i still love you with the intensity of a five year old girl!  but it’s o.k. if we don’t get married! ;)

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