Friday, October 26, 2012

Kicking leaves down the hill.
Kicking leave up the hill when he scoots in front of me.
I try not to begrudge my aching arms when I scoop him up. He absently pats my arm and I imagine he means "good job, mom".
He sighs and rests his head on my shoulder. He smells like the shampoo I used for his bath last night. It's not baby-down anymore, it's little-boy hair.
It's still hard not to worry all of the time. I guess it never goes away, the roar just gets louder and softer sometimes.

Last night I think he really understood that there was a person behind my eyes for the first time.
I scooped him out of the bath and he did his usual, wiggly, giggly dances. When I finished pulling his pajamas over his head he laughed and looked at me. And then he stopped. He stared, pressed his chubby-little hands into my cheeks and pulled my face towards him. His little brow furrowed as I watched him examining the strange windows. "Hello", I said. He tentatively extended a finger and tried to gently poke it in my right eye. I laughed, he laughed, and we went back to business as usual.

But since then, a couple of times today, he'll do the same thing. We'll be playing with his numbers or reading a book when he'll stop, get a quizzical expression, and carefully examine every part of my face.
He's trying to figure it all out.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I would like more dancing to happen.

I've been listening to some new albums and I feel like one song in particular has crawled into my bones. I wish I had more time to practice. This writing program has completely taken over my life, which I love and has been so great, but I still ache for other things.

Ah, well. Short term pain, long term gain and all that.

While we're on the subject, my instructor wrote me a couple of days ago to say that she was "so impressed" with one of my editing projects that she wanted my permission to teach with it. And she gave me 100%. Her email came after a long day of grinding away at my practicum work, so it was just what I needed. It's nice to have some validation on things you pour your heart, sweat, and tears into.

Just over two months left in this program and then I'm thrown back into the big wide world. Here's hoping the job prospects are better than when I graduated with my BA.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I feel like, at this age, life keeps giving.

In your teens and early 20s, it's all about waiting; everyone daydreams about the things they want, who they want to be with, where they want to go. And it feels like a million years away when you're 17, under your parent's roof, and you haven't really figured out who you are.

Now I'm 27 and almost every day I hear about someone getting engaged, or having a baby, or buying a house, or starting an awesome job. I know artists and world-travelers and some really amazing people and it makes me so happy to see them receive good things. I'm a sucker for these optimistic times.

Because, I know, statically, that it can't all last. Some of it will crumble. That's life. You don't get everything, all of the time, forever. Every day I try to hang on to little bits of the good things -- I'm sure I hug and kiss wee man a hundred times a day. I tell my cats I love them. I try to memorize my husband's hugs.

The other day he (husband) came into the room and said he was a bit worried.
I asked him why.
He said that, since the seven-year anniversary of the two of us meeting is coming up, he has a superstitious paranoia that his luck is going to run out. What if he's only allowed seven good years? He's just been too lucky, he said.

I assured him that I'm not really some kind of devil-person who has been playing a ruse that will evaporate after seven years (he seemed oddly reassured -- haha). Then I said that the best thing to do is focus on being grateful instead of being worried. If we only get seven years, they've been seven lovely years.

And the things I see now are lovely.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's been one year now and little bits of homey feelings are starting to creep in. I still compare most everything to Newfoundland, but now I've started to wonder what I'll miss about Ottawa when we're gone. And I wonder when we'll go (we still haven't given "if we'll go" much weight).

We're making friends. Fella has some guys in his program that share his passion for comics and borderline OCD obsession with completing collections. They took an afternoon off a few weekends ago to go to some "it" comic book store out of town and they were so excited. One of these guys just got engaged and I really like his fiance. We've bounded over wryly poking at our academic partners.

Academia is a whole world onto itself. I'm sure it's irrational, but sometimes I worry that I'll completely lose my husband into it; that I'll wake up one day and the books will have eaten him. There's just, so much. He's reading his comps list now: 70 books in a few months. He reads all day, it's a full-time job. Stories and perspectives that are getting crammed into his brain that I never see. Activists and theorists and dead poets.

We went to a board game night tonight with his (our?) program-friends and one of the board games was about naming authors/titles of books: you read out the first line of a book and one team has to guess the author or title of the work. He and the other Ph.d. students hummed and hawed about whether a sentence sounded Modernist or Romantic; Keats or Crowley. Fella knew so much. I guess I just hadn't realized how smart he has gotten. Well, he's always been smart, but he's also always just my husband to me. It was just a little tweak in perspective, but when you've been with someone for seven years, even little shifts can be startling. His journey in school became a little realer to me.

 My program is going well. I've just started my last semester.  I love the work; it's creative, but structured and seems like something I could do. I've been getting all As. It just fits. I've informally promised myself that I'll stop talking about the things that I want to do and I'd just do them, so I'll spare you all of my ideas. But yeah, it's going well.

Wee man is awesome. We have "terrible twos" days, but not as many as I was worried about. I feel like we've moved beyond the bewildered "holyfucki'maparent", past the "bonding", and into the "form a relationship" stage.

He gives a lot of hugs, they're the best.

We're still trying to do it all, and it's going pretty well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Little Dalia

A day late, but here she be. Some details have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Little Dalia

Our plane banked towards the farmland knitted below, "We'll be in our new home soon."
I was surprised at the amount of pasture so close to the city; Ottawa. A far cry from Newfoundland, the origin of our journey. The weight of our angled approach pushed me into my window while my son squirmed uncomfortably on my lap.

"Look, there it is" Alex, my husband, said. Gray blocks crawled towards us and roadways fingered through a surprising amount of greenery. It was bigger than St.John's. This was our nations captial, and I wondered if I had been expecting a swell of nationalistic pride at the sight of it. In truth, I was uninspired and distracted. I needed to call Falaise Animal Hospital, now to be my hospital. I was a Veterinary Receptionist and I had a job lined up.

As our plane took its final swaying moments in the sky, I rewinded  the moments leading to Ottawa; our goodbye parties, Alex's Ph.d acceptance letter, skype interviews. I kept going back. The day Henry was born, leaving my hospital for maternity leave, telling my boss I was pregnant. My first day there. My first day at a vet clinic seemed like a million years ago, the actual year was 2009. 

In those three years I had seen death and joy. Pets on the verge of demise who rallied. Animals who died in their sleep. Downy puppies and kittens who galloped in greeting towards me; I saw second chances for abused hunting beagles and abandoned barn cats. A lot of misery came through our doors, but we also granted a lot of peace. I had been in the gateway between our clinic and the wide "out there." This was a new "out there."

Rubber bounced on the tarmack and I shook out my day-dream. Ottawa. Here we were. This was it.

The first two weeks jarred by with the typical duties that accompany a move to a strange city. Matt and I picked up our keys, signed our lease and wrote a lot of cheques. On a bright morning, Henry flirted with his prospective babysitter at a table in Tim Hortons and we decided that we liked her. We screwed together more wooden Ikea furniture than either of us would ever care to see again. We bought groceries, unpacked our bags, and smiled at our neighbours in the elevator when saw them. We were building what we could.

But when we closed our eyes at night, a hollowness echoed through us. We sank into Newfoundland fog and smelt the sea; the sing-song of constant wind, scraping tuckamores and lumbering moose. Steamy sweet teas, crusty toast and thick jam. Dusty cabin beams through laughter that pulled our sides in hazy evenings. Shadowed hills and ice and damp with accents that pierce your ears and your hearts. It was in our souls and we were far away now. When we opened our eyes each morning, loss rolled in our stomachs. 

So I launched myself into my new job. Falaise was a small practice, only one Vet worked on any given day, and my adjustment was easier than I imagined. My first mission was claiming the front desk and organizing outdated leaflets. On my second day, Rosie, one of the three technitions, approached me:

"So. You're a Newfie?"
I straightened, "Yep."
"How do you like it here so far?"
"Ottawa is nice. It's a bit lonely, though."
"You'll make friends." she said,  "Let me know if you need help with anything." and she returned to the treatment room.

The door bell chimed. I scanned my appointment list. This must be Dalia Hall. A lady in a gray  sweater approached my counter – she had a small calico cat wrapped in a blue blanket "Oh! Hello, you must be new!" she said.

I smiled, "Yes, I am. And this must be Dalia."
"The one and only."

Dalia looked up at me from her nest with green moons. Her fur looked like an orange, black and white swirling marble cake. She was very pretty. I reached over my counter and scratched behind one of her ears, "Hello, Dalia." Her skin was thin and barely covered the bones of her face. She closed her green moon eyes and buried her cheek in my hand. A rumble erupted from her chest. "Sweet girl," I said.

I led the pair into consulting room one and  closed the door behind them. I grabbed Dalia's file and flickered over the notes. There was a diagnoses: Kidney Failure. Dalia had been in three times a week for the last week for subcutaenous fluid treatments. Poor girl.

A few minutes later I heard Dr.White open the door to the room and beckon for Rosie. They were starting Dalia's treatment. Ms.Hall drifted back towards Reception.
"Is it okay if I sit here while they do this? I'm squeamish about needles." She was still clutching the blue blanket.
"Of course."
She smiled, "So. Are you a student?"
"Oh, no. I've worked in a vet clinic before. I just moved here from Newfoundland, actually."
She brightened, "Oh, I love Newfoundland! I went there last summer. To St.John's, it was beautiful."
A bit of sweet melancholy swelled up my throat, "I'm from St.John's."
We smiled at our connection.

A few moments later Rosie brought Dalia back up front – her moon eyes were still shining, but she now had a slightly mishappen lump between her shoulders where fluid has been injected. Ms.Hall held out her blanket and cooed, "come here, girlie."

In the weeks that passed I got to know many other clients and their pets, but I always found myself with shifts that were scheduled during Dalia's treatments. Every appointment, little Dalia came to the counter for her squinty, rumbly, ear-rub and then was whisked away while Ms. Hall waited deligently. When I wasn't busy checking in other appointments or running tasks for the doctors, we talked.

I described my rugged island home and suggested all of the places she could visit the next time she was there. Ms.Hall talked most about Dalia; she shared when she had had a good day and when she had had a bad day. As the days passed, there were more bad days, her heart grew heavier and I offered what little comfort I could.

The first day it snowed, Ms.Hall told me about how Dalia had been a mother. Ms.Hall found her fifteen years ago, in the snow, with five little kittens. She adopted the whole family, but three of the kittens died. In her story, Ms.Hall kept repeating that it must have been some kind of mistake. Because, surely, no one was so cruel as to abandon a pregnant cat in the dead of winter. I didn't want to tell her how heartless some people could be. I didn't want to say how many people wouldn't care about a little cat momma and her tiny babies. So, when she'd finished, I simply replied " I bet  Dalia was a good mom. She must have chosen you."

Ms.Hall didn't say anything, but she nodded.

Dalia continued to waste away. She continued her treatments, but Dr.White looked grimmer after each visit. One evening, Ms.Hall called me "I know we're scheduled for tomorrow, but I think I have t-" Her sentence broke. She couldn't finish. Without checking our appointments, I told her we'd  see her at once.

Dr.White was running a bit behind when Ms.Hall arrived, so she stood at my counter with her girl in her arms. Little Dalia looked up at me with her moon eyes; they weren't shining as brightly as before, but, when I gave her her scratch, she still managed to lean so forcefully into my fingers that I was worried I might hurt her.
"Sweet girl," I whispered.
 "She is," Ms.Hall breathed.

We were both still looking down at her softly purring form when Dr.White rushed towards Ms.Hall and apologized for the delay. She ushered them gingerly into the room. I watched as the gentle, moon eyed, marble-cake cat turned the corner.

The phone was ringing. I shoved my palms into my eyes and tried not to think about what was unfolding as I jumped back to my duties.

The rest of the appointments passed and, once things were quiet, Ms.Hall reappeared. She held her empty blue blanket in her hands. Calico strands still clung to it. 

We stood together as orphans for a moment.

She spoke first.

"Thank you for everything"

I knew I wouldn't see her again, at least for a while. My friend who loved Newfoundland.
I filled with love and pain and yearning. The loss that had been rolling in my belly threatened to crash and pull me apart. I wanted to hug her and cry for our gentle, green-eyed girl. I couldn't.

I said.

"You're welcome."

There was a moment of silence and Ms.Hall nodded. Then she zipped up her coat. She turned. She left. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Creative Nonfiction Longlist

the Canada Writes Creative Nonfiction longlist came out today. There were over 2100 submissions and 30 made the longlist (a small percentage, for sure.) 

My piece didn't make the cut. Statistically, it isn't all that surprising, though it's impossible not to be a little disheartened. I keep telling myself "well, this is part of it." ("it" being writing).   

I had a little chat with the Fella about it. It's hard to talk about disappointment sometimes without sounding like you're making excuses, "well, it is difficult to write something compelling in 1500 words...", "there's no account for personal preference...", but I didn't want to make excuses. Excuses don't do you many favours in the long run.  

One of the judges posted an update on her selection process. She said one of the biggest factors for a winning submission was an economy of words. It makes sense, and I knew this, but as soon as I read it coming from her I realized that there was a pretty large section of my submission that could have been revised and edited out to make way for some of the more important parts. I had never noticed it before, Mr.Fella hadn't noticed it when he read it over, but it stuck me plain as day as soon as I read her suggestion.

So I feel a little better.

I have to run to get the wee man from daycare right now, but I'll post the original submission here later tonight. It's on my external hard drive which is lurking, um, somewhere. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm supposed to be writing an article - instead, I've decided to download Irish music to make myself homesick. Ya know.

The Irish, they get longing.