Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Poet's Words

See also: church-goers, grocery-buyers. And car-drivers, joggers, sleepers in beds.

This poem, online at the Jellyfish Review.

More about Kathy Fish.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Things I'm Reading

I don't recommend all these things, necessarily. However, I thought they had interesting points to make.

The cover of Jose Saramago's
The History of the Siege of Lisbon,
held in front of our sunny deck and red pines

The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Goodreads link

Our book club read this. The main character is a proofreader who--from frustration, perhaps, or perhaps from just growing awareness of his own agency--inserts a "not" into a history book and sets in motion a larger change in his life. 

I liked the idea of the power of the lesser-celebrated members of a book's production team. I said more about it on Instagram, where I'm (surprisingly) @marionagnew. You're welcome to find me there.

How Growing Up in the Digital Age Impacts Young Minds 

Salient quote: "A third concern about viewing habits among the very young comes under the heading of the displacement hypothesis: time spent watching video potentially displaces other more age-appropriate activities such as face-to-face interactions, creative or open playtime, physical movement, outdoor play, and reading, all of which are known to foster brain health in kids."  

I know my mind isn't technically "young," but I have been displacing some of my usual activities with other, media-based activities, and it hasn't been an especially rewarding experience. 

Also, now is the best time of year for my brain to re-learn about things like the physics of falling trees, bodily energy storage and consumption, the body's Vitamin D response to the sun. Et cetera.

The Making of Moonstruck

Salient quote: "[Moonstruck director Norman] Jewison once believed that, after reaching some arbitrary threshold of success, he would be able to call his own shots. Yet here he was at sixty, still hustling, still facing rejection. Those rejections were “very destructive for me at times,” he confided in an unpublished archival interview. “When I become depressed and disillusioned and forsaken and nobody believes in you anymore . . . you take it personally.”"

Again, I'm not a film director but I have experienced rejection--part of the business--and it's disappointing, and I don't like pretending it's not. (You thought I was going to say I'm old, didn't you? Well, that too.) 

However, rejection is not the end of the story. Sometimes you persevere and make Moonstruck, and even though you don't win the Academy Award for Best Director, you've made a classic that apparently experienced a resurgence of sorts during the pandemic.

Not bad.

And now, between rains, I'll go move dirt around, or move myself around on asphalt, or go lie on a rock, or something (maybe nothing!) else. 

Tra la, it's May. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Working Out the Moral

So, a lot's happening. Not with me personally, so much, but with (waves arms) everything.

Here's what it looks like around here these days.

the sun, high in the sky, filters through bare-branched birches
 and various types of conifers

a birchbark-on-trunk closeup,
a shot I take often

Well, the bark on the birch trees looks like that all winter, too, except that there's SO MUCH SUN on this trunk. And I love it.

Spring has definitely, you know, and it's as glorious as ever. Now I wonder if I was somehow "too hard on" winter. If I complained too much, but beyond that -- if I went from impatient for spring, disappointed ("I'm not mad, just disappointed") with each ensuing cold snap and snowstorm, to actual anger. Of the shaking-fists-at-the-sky ilk. Futile rage.


Here's what my toast looked like this morning. (Stay with me for a sec.)

slice of multigrain bread with a
large baked-in hole 

I adore this type of bread. I buy multiple loaves when it's in the store (it freezes well, an excellent feature when you eat as much as toast as we do in this house), and I was really looking forward to my first piece of toast from this loaf. 

And guess what!?! It was amazing. Hole and all. I don't love the bread less because this slice has a hole in it. 

I don't love this place less when there's a difficult season (outside or inside). I just love it, sans disappointment. (Not sans complaining, mind.) 

If the weather doesn't suit me this year, well, next year. Perhaps I won't be able to say "next year" someday, perhaps I'll be all-too-aware that my springs are numbered. 

I'm already more aware than I once was (pandemic? birthdays ending in zero? fatigue? sure, to all of those). Aware of all the clichés: time passes, everything changes, we all die, make the most of blah blah, the only thing we have to fear yadda yadda. Et cetera.  

Clichés because true, though unoriginal. As is this feeling of mine, that I love my toast even when it is imperfect, in part because it is imperfect--it has a history. Same with this place. 

I didn't think there was a "moral," exactly, to these photos, and I still don't. It also wasn't "too hot" (in any metaphorical sense) today for me to consider it. I just wanted to move on with my day, indoors and out. 

I'm glad to have recognized, yet again, that it is possible (necessary) to love the imperfect.

These really are the "good old days." They really are.   

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

'Twas Ever Thus

Monday I sent my second-born off to college. 

No, you didn't miss anything. I still don't have children. It's a metaphor, on which I can't elaborate. Yet.

It was an important day. I wanted to celebrate, because this second-born has been with me for more than a decade. 

And I wanted to take a quiet moment to ... "mourn"? Not quite the right word. But "celebrate" doesn't capture the full range of emotions around the experience. There's a letting-go of this entity that I've held (lightly, firmly, with despair, with hope) for so long.

I wanted to recognize the moment for what it is, yet another change in this time of accelerated change. 

So I clung to that mixture of feelings yesterday, in spite of political leaks, in spite of elections and pandemics and campaign promises and lies under oath. 


I also recognized yesterday as my mother's 105th birthday. She's not alive on earth to celebrate, but I can celebrate: so I did, and I do. I celebrate her life, her choices, her determination and courage and mistakes and humour.


This morning, I found myself thinking about a woman from Ukraine, born in Europe in the second half of the twentieth century, who's lived several decades. She's seen much political and personal upheaval. At some point In the past two months, she packed up her life -- perhaps children and grandchildren, perhaps not -- to escape brutal attacks on her home and herself. 

This woman is a writer. 

When she fled, she bring her laptop? What about a flashdrive? Does she have some sort of key to her passwords (a mnemonic device, a list on paper, a list in her phone?) so she'll be able to access her work-in-progress from the cloud, once (IF) she lands somewhere safely? 

Will she be able to share her work with the world? Will she -- and her children and grandchildren -- even survive?

I don't know this woman, but I know she exists. Other woman, similar and not, make their way in the world. I hold space for all of them. 


This spring, I have moaned a LOT about weather, as we got snowstorm after snowstorm and more weeks than expected of temperatures colder than -20C. 

I have ALSO felt my creative energy returning -- beyond the "I received a grant so I have to produce" energy. The "Wouldn't this be fun to examine?" energy. The "I can't wait to get to the page" energy. The kind of energy I've experienced only in flashes throughout the past several years. 

The kind of energy that lets me BOTH celebrate AND let go, that lets me recognize my mother BOTH as a flawed and imperfect human (as I have written about her) AND as a multifaceted, complex woman who has raised another, in me. 

I chose to protect that energy yesterday, even as other things happened. 


It was ever thus: celebrations and mourning at the same time. Upheaval and safety. Creation, in its many forms, co-exists with destruction. 

We celebrate. And let go. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Learning, Learning

I like to learn things. Or at least I think I like to learn things.

Yesterday I had the chance to learn about algal blooms on Lake Superior, from the comfort of my dining room table. 

Including an algal-bloom-coloured pen!

It was an excellent presentation, with representation from both countries, and much useful information about distinguishing potentially toxic algal blooms from (e.g.) pollen, an annual nuisance. 

At a time when communicating science has been difficult at best -- lots of folks blaming messengers, people without appropriate expertise serving as messengers, and the inevitable politicization of good health practices -- this presentation was reassuring. 

The presenters addressed science and technical questions, and the hour included ways your average person, like me, can distinguish between standard algal growths (look for filaments to indicate standard growth) and potentially worrisome algal blooms. The presentation showed what useful information (like photos, and which specific perspectives) to collect if you are reporting a possible bloom. The presentation included safety considerations (don't let pets romp in yucky water, hose them and yourself off after being in a lake) that were excellent reminders. 

Also, hundreds of people were there, a reassuring reminder that lots of people love Lake Superior.

Given my purported "love of learning," there are, however, some things I apparently have difficulty learning. Small silly things. 

A recent example: I shouldn't brush my teeth while wearing actual clothing. If I were a product, I could claim "dripping toothpaste on my sweater for twenty-five years." That was a different time I went out in public with spots on my sweater (and a kind friend suggested brushing my teeth earlier in the "getting ready" process). I thought I had learned since then. And yet.

At least I can look forward to a future in which there will always be something new for me to learn. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Looking for Wins

We're awaiting yet another dump of snow--we've had one every Wednesday for something like two months. 

And today, for some reason, I'm considering small wins. Little victories. Moments about which, even in retrospect in the wee hours, I can be proud of my behaviour. 

1. At a meeting in which people made inappropriate and ignorant comments, the kind that make me gasp aloud and my eyes narrow, I didn't get sucked into responding in a way that would have given the comments legitimacy and further derailed the discussion. Much as I am learning to speak up, I am also (perhaps eventually) learning when not to.

2. I figured out a technical network issue after only a quick internet search and giving it a whirl. To be honest, I'd rather do significantly more research than I ended up doing if it meant I didn't have to call tech support. 

3. I reset our cordless phones (yes, we have a landline; we are dinosaurs) after they'd mysteriously gone wonky--again, with minimal research, some unplugging and replugging, and some (much) poking of buttons. My motto: "Just try it!" The stakes were low. At worst, we would had had more tech gadget waste for the landfill. 

4. Miscellaneous: I completed a writing project and returned to another. I spent time out-of-doors when it was pleasant and I could get out, and I stopped myself from complaining two times for every one time I groaned aloud. I sat and looked at the lily growing from the bulb I despaired of a few months back. I managed, planned, monitored, created, and cleaned up. 

I continued with the business of daily living. I felt grateful to be able to. And that's win enough.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Thirty-Year Storm

We're expecting another big storm today--worse for Winnipeg and parts west, but here we expect at least a deluge of rain onto frozen ground, and possibly snow. 

At this point, there's nothing really left to say about that. 

Except when you're playing with rhythm in the wee hours of the morning, to wit:

An April morning:
I’m sunny on the inside
Rain and snow outside

Storm in the forecast
They fill wood box and bathtub
But won’t wear a mask

The house is aging
Rain seeps under the windows
Creaky metaphor

Rain as tears, wind as anger
In the morning, joy. 

Note that I learned the word "volta" in the wee hours as well. It's the point where the poem turns to a second idea, which is apt, given that "volta" is Italian for "turn".

So I wasn't going to lament the difficult winter and stormy transition to spring YET AGAIN, but can I just say that I haven't given up hope that this weather system is a volta?

And, just so that I remember that part of transitions, even the external ones like weather, is up to me, full disclosure. Yesterday I ran errands without any coat at all (we were in the car mostly), and I've walked outdoors lately. So yes, it's no longer February.

Even on the inside.