Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

All is Calm, All is Bright


As soft the new lain snow beds down

And laden trees bend low to ground

The lowly beasts with muffled sound

Their comfort seek in safe surround.


And I my husbandry complete

A path do trace with eager feet

Toward the golden panes that greet

My weary bones with promise sweet


Of wood-stoked blaze and cushioned bed

Of damp wool-scent curled ‘round my head

As snow-soaked coat and hat quick shed

The cloak of lace upon them spread.


But though my body sore inclined

To seek out hearth and humankind

Does forge its way with intent blind

A silver web my feet entwines.


The moon, hung high, will have her way

Her spell, tight-bound, my progress stays

And stilled, I meet her kindly gaze

My soul awash with peace, with grace.



Nocturnal Balm

Québec 2003

After hours of being cocooned in the warmth and closeness of my downtown condo, how wonderful it is to lift my gaze to the window that gives onto the northern cityscape and be drawn out through the glistening black pane, through the stark lacework of nude maple branches and into the crisp, pure clarity of the winter night. A glinting vista of lights sweeps away before my eyes, undulating down into the valley and up the other side to disappear into the slumbering black mountains. Each time it takes my breath away, this small slice of grandeur that awaits my chance passing in front of the window to delight and anoint me anew with its serenity. The heart that once beat only for the star-strewn ink of a country sky now throbs with a new love for this urban, nocturnal balm.

Don’t Go

Mom, I still cry for you
In need, in anger, in frustration,
The lonesome wail of a forsaken child.

I’m too old to cry like this,
I know.
I have children of my own
To love,
To love me.
I have my life partner
To love,
To love me.

But what I need
Every now and then,
Is your gentle voice,
Your motherly scent,
Your kind hand laid on mine,
Your wordless understanding.

I feel your absence in my days:
In a thought left unshared,
In a laugh snuffed out in sadness,
In the solitude of my pain.

As time pulls you further away,
As life attempts to fill the gap with lesser things,
I rage against it.

I hold your sweaters to me
And rock in pain,
Feeling your wonderful knitting hands,
Trying to inhale a last vestige of your scent.

How do we survive the loss of a mother?
Is there any healing for that wound
That gapes,
Open and raw,
Rubbed by the salt of memory and longing?

My cry is primal:
I want my mother.
I want my mother.

Hear Me

Inside my heart, a songbird trills
And serenades my every hour
Threading softly through my dreams
Now a pleading clamour
Now a gentle hum
Beneath my breast.

The melody is beautiful
But the song knifes from within
Seeking flight
A passage to the outside
For a song unheard is a prisoner
Shackled to its voice.

And then comes another
Bending close to hear
Head held to my breast
Releasing bird and song to swell and soar
Harmonies multiplying
Finding resonance in the other.

And when we part
Resume our ways
The songbird flutters down to earth;
Its wings I fold along its sides
To place it back within my heart.

Inside my heart a songbird mourns
And haunts my every hour.


A melody, she moved among us
Murmuring lullabies in infant ears
Weaving music into childhood dreams
Making harmonies of discordant teen angst
Humming the score of our life symphonies…

I sway to the rhythm of her music even yet
Humming fragments from memory
Filling in lost notes.
But it’s a poor song at best
Without her voice.

Level Crossing

Québec, 2003

Some days, childhood is far away, a hazy world distanced by time and experience. Then, like today, a chance combination of sensory signals aligns to clear away the mists and a treasured moment rushes up through the tunnel of the past to envelope me. It happens in a second.

This morning on my walk with the dogs, a train horn sounded, carrying clearly on the crisp fall air. The plaintive, comforting sound clarioning across the chill morning evoked an autumn day in a village miles away, a young schoolgirl trudging across the field by the playground and over the train tracks to Buchannan Public School, all as clearly as though I had sped back in time. I felt such longing to recapture the moment squandered so innocently, so unconsciously all those years ago, and clasp it to me, holding with it all the precious memories of family and home.

As the train withdrew into the distance I was left with an echo of a time when my life unfolded in a safe cocoon, and a reminder that the silk has been rent open, and I may never return. It was both painful, and poignant.

Uncle Rémi*

            My brothers and I squirm in the back of the station wagon as it finally pulls through Grandma’s farm gate. We crane our necks to see whether Uncle Rémi has come down yet from the logging camp and taken up his customary place on the veranda, for though we love Grandma dearly, it’s Uncle Rémi we’re bursting to see. He’s here! He’s here!

The car is barely stopped before we tumble out of the back seat and stampede, squealing, into a huge Uncle Rémi bear hug, our faces crushed against his rough wool coat and the familiar scent of pine and wood smoke enveloping us. We step back expectantly and shyly eye the myriad of tattered pockets in his khaki bush pants, too well-bred (and well-warned) to ask for the gifts he always brings us, but beseeching him with our eyes nonetheless. Grinning knowingly, he fishes around absentmindedly,  first in one pocket, then in another, feigning surprise as he pulls out a couple of carved wooden flutes for the boys and a bear claw necklace for me. Grandma pops her head out the window to announce dinner and we crowd in through the door, clinging like burrs to his side.

            Grandma’s kitchen shrinks whenever Uncle Rémi comes indoors. His calloused hands look better suited to wielding a chainsaw than heirloom flatware. His plate gets filled twice for our once and he always manages to wheedle a third piece of pie out of Grandma by sliding his arm around her ample waist and praising her cooking to the heavens. The token noises of disapproval she makes are belied by her blushing cheeks and sparkling eyes. Uncle Rémi’s only contribution to the conversation ping-ponging across the table is an occasional appreciative guffaw or nod of assent: the hand engulfing his fork doesn’t rest until he scrapes back his chair, groaning, to pull out his tobacco pouch.

            Later on, after the women are asleep, we kids slip quietly out of the huge quilt-covered bed in what used to be the boys’ room and tiptoe to the floor grate. Fanned out on our bellies, we peer down to the sitting room where the men are toasting themselves in front of the wood stove, surreptitiously passing Uncle Rémi’s battered silver flask around as he holds court late into the night. We listen raptly to the oft-told tales of his adventures in the bush, stories deemed much too wild for “little ears.” When he gets to our favourite part, where the attacking bear swipes the axe out of his hand, he pauses, leans back, makes a pretence of stretching his arms behind his head—then winks at us overhead. Our painfully held breaths explode collectively in a burst of guilty giggling and we scamper back to bed, ducking under the covers to assume innocent poses of sleep, should Grandma come down the hall to check on us.

The next morning, as we are herded yawning and shivering into the station wagon, we search in vain for some sign of Uncle Rémi, but he was up and gone to the bush hours ago, we are informed, unlike some sleepyheads who couldn’t get out of bed. We settle down among pillows and travel rugs for the trip home, the boys clutching their carved flutes and me my bear-claw necklace. As the station wagon crunches down the gravel driveway and out through the farm gate we grin at each other, black-toothed conspirators, as we pass around the bag of liquorice that Uncle Rémi has hidden for us in the back seat.                                                                                            

*Uncle Rémi is a composite of all the shy bachelors and woodsmen I’ve ever known, but in my heart I believe he exists somewhere. Perhaps you know him?