Archive for the ‘peace’ Tag

The bus, the girl, and me

I caught myself feeling a sharp pang of jealousy yesterday – at a young woman getting off of a bus.

She was alone. Intent on her errand, her destination. Independently. No children to bring along to the store with her, none to drop off at daycare before work, no enormous shopping cart filled with diapers and milk to maneuver through the snow to her car, and especially, especially, no whining, crying, or interruptions. She had earphones in her ears, a small fashionable purse on her shoulder, and a purpose in her stride as she stepped off the bus, head up. She wasn’t looking for and counting heads, holding mittened hands, or speaking a constant stream of instructions, reminders and chastisement. She was quiet. Calm. Happy. She was on her way to somewhere, or someone. Alone.

I told myself that she might be off to do a dull and underpaid shift at a dead-end job, with an empty apartment the only thing waiting at the end of it, wishing for all the world for the lovely family and home and life that I have.

It didn’t help. I was overwhelmingly, shockingly, endlessly jealous. Oh, to have a day to myself! To be able to pop in to a store, to meander, to browse! Oh, to not have a baby on my back, or a diaper bag on my shoulder, or a pattering of questions and lecturing on nuclear bombs and jetpacks to tune out! Oh, to read world politics, and think about them, and then discuss them! Oh, to feel like I have any expertise, or just plain interests, of my own!

Oh, to not have to cook dinner again.

Oh, to not be constantly aware of the clock, measuring the next naptime, the next load of laundry, the defrosting chicken, the school day.

Oh, to miss my family. To have a break, and to be happy to come back to them.

Oh, to not be jealous of a random stranger getting off a bus at the local Walmart.

And then, my daughter does something irresistibly cute. Babbling, making friends of strangers at the coffee shop, crawling to my outstretched arms. And I feel so guilty for wanting to miss even a single moment of this fleeting time.

And yet, then we’re taking beloved stuffed animals away from my son in a bid to improve increasingly disruptive behavior at school, and Dearest and I spend a daily hour tearing our hair out wondering what is wrong with our son, with us, with the school system. Wondering if there’s anything at all we can do to help our impulsive, inattentive, expressive, bright little boy who seems to only be getting harder with time. Never knowing what, or when, the next battle will be.

Oh, to not have to come home to crying, or to have crying come home to me.

To just get on a bus. And off again, somewhere else. Nowhere special. Alone. For an afternoon. With dinner warm and waiting, unmade by me, happy children, an unstressed spouse, a clean house without a single laundry basket in the livingroom. Oh, to just look out the window. And dream.

I pushed the stroller on, past the bus, through the snow, towards home. I stroked my daughter’s darling, sleeping head, shrugged my shoulders and stretched my legs, and decided on chicken parmesean for dinner.

What hallelujah means to me

I’ve been listening to “Hallelujah” incessantly lately – not from Handel’s Messiah, but rather The Good Lovelies‘ cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

It’s ethereal, mesmerizing, uplifting, soul-searching. A prayer, a plea, a homage – it’s pain and pleasure and very, very human.

I went hunting for Leonard Cohen’s original, and came across an interview he gave where he talks about depression, and its impact on his music. He said something that struck me: “Suffering doesn’t produce good work – good work is produced in spite of suffering, as a response, as a victory over suffering.”

A victory over suffering.

As I sing to Hibou, to teach her, to please her, to distract her, to soothe her, sometimes just to overpower her penetrating complaints, I think about this. About how we must celebrate. We MUST celebrate. We must acknowledge victory over suffering, we must capture and rejoice in the beauty, the awe of life. Because it’s too hard not to. Life is too hard when we don’t.

Cohen is right – it’s a cold, a lonely, a broken hallelujah. But it’s still a hallelujah. When we praise, no matter what, no matter how, it’s still praising. It’s still acknowledging, celebrating – even when we’re on our knees and begging, face covered in tears and pressed against the floor.

Anyone who’s been there – wet, cold, huddled, terrified, alone – if you’ve been there, then you know that there is always an after. An after when it gets better. An after when we can get up, when we can sing, when we can celebrate. When we can produce good work.

They’re both human, you see. The broken moments, and the whole.

A good friend of mine is discovering what it is to see the middle of the night with a new baby. To see night after night, sore and tired and lonely. My husband is struggling with seeing the middle of the day with a busy but boring job, chores and whining and more work to come home to. To see day after day, frustrated and angry and overwhelmed.

And I – I am grateful. I am grateful, in as many moments as I can notice, of how I’ve been there. And now I’m not. I may be again, but now, now I’m not.

I’ll sing a different Hallelujah in a few days, my annual Messiah practice and community concert coming up. It’s so very different, such a different form of praise – yet, to me, the same. It reaches the same place within, where the dark and the light are one and the same.

“I did my best, it wasn’t much. I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch. I told the truth; I didn’t come to fool you. And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”

We all pass that way, or this, somehow. Some of us less, some of us more. Some of us celebrating just a little harder, a little louder than others, recognizing the victory for what it is. All of us trying our best. Some of us singing hallelujah.

Mmmmmmm

A baby, an afternoon, and a beach. Out at the edge of the jetty, past the bay with the lifeguards and volleyball and ducks. The water stretches out in front of me, glittering with white sails, white wings, white waves. And above, every colour of sky.
River therapy.
I feed Hibou with one hand and write with the other, feeling Britannia Beach’s pebbles under all of my toes. My shoulders glow in the sunshine, and I listen with my whole body.
I have been starving for this sound.
Waves, and wind, and wings. Gulls and children, each with happy shrieks.
The city disappears. I feel like I am inside a secret, with only lapping, crashing water, the singing wind, and an overwhelming view.
Hibou falls asleep for a moment or two, lulled by the white noise of the surf. But the excitement of a gull landing is too much, and she is up, staring.
Utter peace, for the cost of the gas to get here.
A windsurfer launches out, total grace, gone in an instant of white wake.
Geese are a dotted black line, punctuating the clouds.
A pair of ducks peer at us hopefully as they waddle past, close enough to see the texture of their beaks. Hibou peers wondrously back.
The sky stretches, and stretches, and yawns.
There isn’t more perfection in all the wide world.

The Time-Space Continuum

There will come a time, they say, when my child will not want to talk to me incessantly.
“Momma, I’ve got an S T 15 4 hundred telescope!”
A time of ignoring, of being out, of closed room doors and worrying about how he’s doing.
“Look, Momma, I’m at 128 steps on my foot thermometer!”
“Your pedometer, Darling.”
“Yah, my footomometer! 136!”
I will wonder what to do with my spare time. And my spare space. And my spare quiet. They say.
“Momma, how much points do I have now in the game? Do I have more than you? How much more than you do I have now, Mummy?”
Someday, I will not be touched at random times and in random places. My body will no longer be public property, nor my sleeve a place for unclean faces to cuddle.
“Momma, for your birthday, I’m going to buy you something special. Something of your very own, that you will really like. It starts with a T. But you’ll never guess! It’ll be a 15 5 hundred, at least! A tuh, tuh, tuh T!”
I will sleep more than one night in a row uninterrupted. People will knock on the bathroom door, and then go away when they discover that someone is on the other side. I will blow-dry my hair from start to finish with nary a shouted conversation during.
“Look Momma, I unlocked the bathroom door with my own thumbnail! Oh, clever me!”
Dinnertime will include conversations, not negotiations. Even, should I dare to dream so brazenly, with only one person speaking at a time.
“1288! One two eighty-eight steps from breakfast to this lightpost!”
There will come, they say, a time when I will miss this. I will. Whether it will be as much as I miss that fantastical time now, oh, I don’t know.
“Momma, did you know? Did you know that chocolate is moo-licious? Did you know that sand is really little tiny rocks? Did you know that one of the constellations is a hunter, with a bow? Did you know that? And, when I become an inventor, I’m going to invent a car that can fly, and runs on air, and never gets dented. And I’m going to biuld you a robot that will cook you dinner. And, did you
know, that, that, that rocketships can shoot missiles? And that ped is like the French word for foot, but it’s actually another language. And, I’m at, I’m at. Hold on, let me check. I’m at 14 hundred steps! 14 hundred! 14 hundred steps to daycare!”
For now, I cherish my solo walk to work, filtering in only the noises of traffic, of birds, of feet crunching. My chatter-free fifteen minutes. I soak in the sun warming my legs, the freedom to walk at my own pace. I am grateful, every single time during elevator chit-chat, when I don’t need to reply.
Someday, silence will stretch. It won’t be measured, allotted, stolen. I will remember all of this fondly.
I will delight, at a further someday, at charming moments just like these, which will come in defined doses, at reasonable hours of the day. When children will not feel like an endless bombardment, when there will be rest in between the waves.
There will come a time.

One Midsummer Night

The evening drinks the sun down,
a slow, smooth swallow
lingering on the tongue.
The light caresses the wildflowers,
stretches shadows for me to follow.
The sky is one long brushstroke.
I am so lucky.

The noble cows watch me roll past with indifference,
The lily pads wave me on.
This is the Ottawa Valley,
lush, well-worn, warmly welcoming.
I am on my way home from camping with Bonhomme,
a scant day and a half of splendour.
Hours of lugging and tugging,
planning and packing,
setting up and taking down,
all for a mere overnight stay.
I made this happen.

I remind myself of the delight on his face as he held a 6-foot grey ratsnake in his hands, courtesy of the park ranger,
as I make my eighth trip into the house carrying in gear,
weighing the cost of a precious vacation day from work.
There were blue-finned sunfish in the water this morning,
as the geese ate their breakfast of lawn nearby.
We kayaked over the same fish in the afternoon, Bonhomme proclaiming himself an expert paddler.
We discovered frogs the size of thumbnails,
saw centipedes curl and fireflies wink,
I remember as I resist the call of my lullaby tires.
We learned the four calls of the loon.
There was quiet colouring,
and noisy tent peg hammering,
hooting and tooting while walking in the middle of the carefee road.
It was worth it.

The half moon applauds me with its full belly
(knowing full well that I’ve been up before the sun),
for making memories,
for teaching one small boy how big it feels to be free.

A Cup of Something

I stare into slowly forming bubbles of warm milk, slowly, hypnotically whisking.
The last time I made myself a cup of warm milk, it was in the deep darkness of night, beneath a star-studded sky during my week of rented cottage bliss late last summer.
It is as comforting as I remember.
The steam soothes my gritty eyes, while the gentle sweetness blankets my tongue.
I remember needing it then, last summer, begrudgingly awake for long hours as I grappled with my mind.
This time, early summer evening, I’m not sure why I need it – just a sense that it would help.
Help what, exactly, I don’t know.
I’m more – not exactly at peace, but something close to it – than I’ve been for longer than I can remember.

And yet, I’m floating in a vortex, bombarded by storms of emotions not my own.
Dearest has been a wreck for months on end – he wasn’t on the surest of footing last summer before he drove himself crazy with home renovations, and it just got worse from there. Then came the liquid diet episode, in which my man de-evolved before my very eyes. And now, it’s the famous budget cuts, the federal government downsizing. He’s not been himself for so long that I’ve just about forgotten who that is.
My work environment sucks – due to that same downsizing.
And Bonhomme has fully entered his dramatist phase.
Of course, there’s also my monthly maybe-I’m-pregnant-this-month?-nope-not-yet thing.
And so – storms.

Still, there is a stillness in me. It isn’t always accessible, and my running thoughts take over the driver’s seat much more than I’d like, but it’s there. Frequently. Consistently. Daily. Not hourly, not quite. But periodically, every day.
It soothes me. Like warm cinnamony-honey milk. Curling its fingers through my hair, stroking my cheek.
It is me, whispering to myself: “I am here.
I am still here.

A warm hug sits in my stomach now, mug empty.
I feel that I’ve been visited by a good friend, who brought fresh flowers and a laugh with her, let the sunshine in.
I still don’t know what exactly a simple cup of warm milk helped – I just know that it did.

Cottage Weekend Trio

Mind: be still.
Be quiet, and listen.
It is the waves’ turn to speak.
The raindrops are doing a tapdance, in time with the treetops.
Heart: slow.
Let the wind set your beat tonight.
The licorice-checkered tablecloth begs for a crossword puzzle.

The tightly wound ball of yarn that I am
is starting to slowly unravel.
There are still knots in the line,
but the string is straightening,
loosening.
I see the kite tail that I could be,
flying high above the trees,
fierce,
strong,
a purposeful weight.
A night’s sleep and a day’s restfulness
is all it took.
If tonight’s sleep could be longer,
less interrupted by nightmares,
and tomorrow’s day even lazier,
I’d get closer,
and closer,
to still.
To strength.
To unknotting.

What a blessing it is to have quiet.
A prolonged period of time listening only to my own breath,
trees swaying,
birds greeting the morning.
What a gift it is to know that there is nothing I must do with my time.
To have a day that does not need to be filled.
It can just be.
It can just whisper to me.

Recipe for a Sunday Afternoon

Turn the radio on to CBC French Classical, Radio Canada.
Turn the oven on to 375 degrees Farenheit.
In a food processor, blend together 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, pinch salt, 1/2 cup sugar.
Tape an orange monster with a bellyful of Buzz Lightyear stickers to the front door.
Kick 3 toys to the side of the hallway on your way to the freezer to get the pecans. Make sure you use an appropriately satisfying amount of force.
Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, 1 egg, a generous helping of pecans, and somewhere between 1/4 and a 1/2 cup of milk to the batter.
Pulse.
Add a child-sized number of chocolate chips.
Fill the kettle and set to boil.
Pick up 4 squashed pieces of popcorn and throw into the garbage.
Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Take out an overly large mug and 1 teabag of chai tea, add too much honey and a weighty splash of milk, and top up with steaming water.
Stand in the middle of the kitchen and breathe in the smells.
Thank your husband for taking your child to the movies with a quiet prayer.
Remove the cookies from the oven and turn it off.
Pick up three burning hot cookies with your fingertips and place them onto a clean plate.
Sit down.
Click on the Mahjong icon.
Next time, add more butter, less flour, exactly the same amount of sunshine.
Go back for seconds.

Ready or not

Change swirls around me, a rising tide.
Comfortable in water, I float easily, watching, wading, immersed.
I see islands of indomitable resistance flooded.
I am swept past battered shores.
Nothing is untouched, nothing is spared.
Only those of courage, confidence and conviction will forget about the wet,
and remember to look up –
at the everpresent sky.