Sunday, December 27, 2009

Coffee Shop.

Place: High River, Alberta
Date: December 27, 2009
Characters: Shelley, Taylor, Kirby

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Christmas means to me.



A daughter kissing frost.

car in woods 1.dec09

And a dead car in the woods.


Stamping symbols into the snow.


And mother-daughter moments.


Mother-son piggybacks.



Shell, Logan, Kim, Taylor in the woods.Xmas09

And group shots.


Son and daughter, with skull.


Letting them make their way.

walking in woods 2.dec09

However long it takes.


Because it is so beautiful.


And quiet.


And to get lost

for two hours


in the woods

with the coyote

and grouse

is reason enough to rejoice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter horses.


P1000431 P1000432

I stopped for horses in December.

I wrote a poem in November.

November 23, 2009

Coleridge would shudder, but the sun rose

on my morning run down the sanguine dirt road

like Neapolitan ice cream. Dog-less now,

and man-less, too, but some days I can’t help believing

things might just be okay. The geese didn’t stir

from the lake. I watched two coyotes

in the field beside my house

and they watched me back. I keep getting into these

staring contests. Then the horse I like best,

the palomino: we got into it, too.

The legs were working today, despite

months-long self-abuse. You see I am hopeful,

oh woman who ordered me to stop writing

sad poems. A few good runs

and I set momentary sights on a marathon.

And the white-tailed deer today. They broke through

Frank’s fence and kept crossing

the road like the cars of a train —

I lost count. What else. At the post office

ten old farmers corralled

the coffee row table — Hans, Frank, Ron, Jim ...

their monosyllabic names

more familiar to me than friends I once had

in the city. Roger says Coffee, tea or me?

and I say Coffee, but tomorrow.

Today I’m taking my ruddy face home. I’ll skin off

these sopping layers and horde each cup

of the galloping light.


What will January bring?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A retreat. And What doesn't kill you.

Well, it ain't boring. (Life, that is.)

I completed all my readings (major whew), and visited a childhood friend, Lorene, in Lloydminster. It might have been a dozen years since I lost saw her; it was wonderful to reconnect ... we fell into conversation like we'd been apart for two days.

(Photo: A mini-drama presentation of
The Bone Talker, Big River, SK).

Then my friend Sean, Jackson et moi repaired to my parents' cabin at Greig Lake, in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park. We kept a wood-fire burning the entire time we were there, hauled wash water from the lake, wrote, read, and hiked more than I ever have in my life. The trails were extraordinary; I'd always been too bear-afraid to hike in the woods\forest in the the summer.

(Photo: Kimball Lake, SK, beautiful winter day).

At one point we came upon a hunting blind and an angry hunter stepped out: What are you doing? You're ruining my hunting!

Jaysus. You call sitting in a little hunt with a shotgun, ATV parked outside, hunting?

(We bought orange toques after that. They have deer appliqued front and centre.)

I spent part of every day with my new camera and tripod, shooting photos for the self-portrait project. The title of my series is "Understory," and anyone viewing the images would, I'm certain, consider them landscapes rather than self-portraits - often I'm scarcely visible amongst the leaves, trees, and grass, but that's the point. (I'll be writing an essay on this, so won't go into it further here and now. )

So, the days were rolling along just fine, and for all intents and purposes, it was a dandy retreat, with spectacular whether for November in Saskatchewan. One night we went into Meadow Lake to attend my sister's 50th birthday party. I knew I couldn't leave Jackson in the cabin, for he'd cry and howl as he's wont, and there are two families who live year-round across from my parents' place, so I brought him into town with us.

I couldn't bring Jackson in the house, as my sister has a dog that abhors other members of its species, and tying Jack-o up in the yard would have resulted in aforementioned crying and howling. So, I left him in my car, and had the dog gate up, as always.

Bad decision.

Long, sad story short: dog freaked out. Thrashed around so much he even got the dog gate down. $3085.00 in damages to my Subaru. He even chewed off the passenger seatbelt.

Far sadder still: I no longer have a dog.

And now the good news ...

I put the word out that I was looking for a new home for Jackson, and within a couple of hours, Harvey and Bev Demers at Greig Lake had found a lovely family who said they might be interested. The family came out to the lake, met Jackson (who was on strangely good behaviour), bonded, and took him home to their acreage. They have two children, and a 6 month old Lab retriever. And did I mention the acreage? (And it's NOT on the highway.) Their last name is Lajeunesse. I love saying it. Lajeunesse. Lajeunesse. It's so gloriously French. And Jackson won't even have to change his initials.

I'm making light of this, and lord knows my life is going to be easier now, but ay, how to live without a dog? I love dogs. I am 100% a dog person. I'm not even sure I know how to live without a dog making himself at home on my furniture, running with me, giving me hugs and kisses when I need them, eating the leftovers of every meal. Jack's been part of my life (some say he's controlled my life) for the last 5 years, and for 12 years before that it was Alex Trebek (the dog). I have complete freedom now ... so why doesn't it feel that great?

Another transition. Geez. Ground zero, otra vez.

So, I'm planning for ever more adventures in 2010, as now I don't have to deal with Jackson realities when I travel. Nepal is tempting. Cycling across Cuba maybe. Volunteering in Africa or South America. I just don't know. (Again, I'm quite overwhelmed.) Back to Europa? Apply for some US (or other) retreats? Connect with friends new and old?

First things first: from now until Christmas, I'm finishing up a few long-standing manuscripts and sending them out to prospective publishers. I've been dragging my ass on these projects for too long. Essays, poetry, short stories, and I'm revising my out-of-print novel, Tell Me Everything (Coteau Books, 2000), to resubmit to a new publisher.

Now more of the "show" part of this Show and Tell. A few photos from my project. (New camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ35.)

Finally, I'd like to alert all film fans who don't already know about to check it out.

Search the library by your favourite director, actors, genre, etc. I recently watched -- on my laptop, in the comfort of my own bedroom -- one of the best films I've scene for ages:

"Cloud Nine" or "Wolke Neun," as it's called in German, by director Andreas Dresen. Oh, my.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More than halfway through ..

my season of readings. Numerous classrooms have participated in The Bone Talker mini-drama, and adult audiences have heard work from my latest book, a few essays, and new poems.

I love the highway, and have only had to drive in snow (light, not so serious) for about 5 hours. But when you're "on" for up to 5 presentations a day, AND have to drive between communities, it does make one tired at the end of the day.

I stopped on the last grid road before home to take a few shots for the self-portrait photo project I'm involved in with my daughter, Taylor Leedahl. I'd had seven presentations in the last two days and was beat, which, I think, is evident in the shot.

But I must tell you about last night. I read in Pilger, at the library. Pilger is only a few km from Middle Lake, and I was supported in a BIG way. The library was packed, and the people are just so good, and kind, and I love them. I really do.

And here's another example of Rural Generosity (the caps are deserved):

I have a dog gate that fits into the back of my Subaru so that my redbone coonhound can't crawl all over the car when I'm driving. For some time now I've not been able to use the gate as I misplaced one of the screws. After having no luck finding one on-line or via any of the Subaru parts-places I called all over N. America, I asked my neighbour, Jim Pomedli, if he might be able to make me one.

Not only did Jim make me an exact replica within just a few hours, when I went to retrieve it he a) made me coffee b) supplied me with three packages of elk meat c) gave me a huge bag of Saskatoon berries (which he calls June berries).

And get this. When I asked him how much he wanted for making the gate fastener, he said one dollar. One dollar? You can't even get a pack of gum for a dollar! Of course I paid him more, but it was still probably less than a 1\3 of what I would have had to pay from an auto parts supplier, and there would have been shipping, and delays, and no coffee, elk meat, or berries.

Middle Lake, you are the best.

Next week: three presentations in Big River, Saskatchewan.

Ciao for now. I'll be in touch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Indian Head: cool name for a Saskatchewan town.

On the subject of snow ...
This is where I begin my walk or run every day.

Where I live and why I love it.

Just me, Jackson, and gaggles of Canada Geese.
Or Snow Geese.
Four bright eyes on a country road at night. (Two raccoons).
And snow.

Hello you, whoever you are.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dog eats own flesh ... a Pumpkin Festival ... and harvest

Photos and text are all scrambled. Pretend it's a puzzle.

Woman's best friend.

Wretchedest beast!

Crazy he makes me, eating his own flesh, costing me hundreds in vet bills, playing with my mind.

But hurray for gardens, and fresh vegetables, and
opportunities for still-life paintings.

Yesterday I spent the day volunteering at the 4th Annual Pilger Pumpkin Festival. I also interviewed and photographed for hours, and today finished my piece on the event for the Western Producer.

Man. Only approx. 80 people live in Pilger. They had 460 people at the festival, and 120 volunteers.

I ate waaaaaaay too much pie, and got talked into leading the crown in "Oh Canada" on stage with two other women. Fortunately, my nicely-voiced father was in the audience, and he was
happy to join us.

There was a pumpkin catapult, and pumpkin shot put, and juggling, and carving competitions, and live entertainment all day, games for the kids, beer gardens ... pretty good fun.

Reading in Prince Albert on Tuesday at 7 pm at the library. Just in case anyone reading this might happen to be in PA. On Tuesday the 29th. At the library. And care to hear poetry and a few tales.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supplementing my writing income.

And this work suits me fine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lights down: a telephone monologue for early September.

The curtain rises to reveal a pyjama-wearing woman in her mid-40s at her desk, writing on a laptop. The window's open, and a "breeze" lifts the papers scattered about her desk and surrounding surfaces. There's a map of the world to her right, and various pieces of paper taped to the wall on her left. Books, stationery supplies, file folders and other related paraphernalia give the room a sense of organized clutter. Clearly, it's a working office.

(phone rings)

Hello. Yes, yes, I'm sorry ... it's been some time since we last spoke.

Not bad, though I did go through a valley there a while back. No, that's okay, I'm a fair bit better now, though if there's a dirtier D word in the English language, I'm not familiar with it. No, D. (pause) For divorce. Yes, that's right. Well, what can you do? What doesn't kill you, as they say. Oh, you hadn't heard? Well I haven't exactly been sending out announcements. It's just ... it's just so goddamn ... textbook. Anyway, I'd really rather not talk about it, okay?


What's new? Well, I've had to find some work. Real work. That pays. That's right. If I gave you 50 guesses you'd never get it. Not even 500. Are you ready? I'm driving a combine. Yes, I said a combine. Big machine that picks up swathed crops in a field. Think separator, hopper, auger, and--

Dangerous? Could be. I keep having visions of being armless by mid-October. Yes, that would put a damper on writing, playing piano, and taking the dog out on his leash. (pause) True, I could tie the leash around my waist but ... have you seen my dog? No. Thought not.

Christmas? Well, I don't know. I thought I was going to get away with a couple of friends on a cruise, but that fell through, so now I'm looking for options. In fact, I'm looking for options for all of 2010.

Yes, big changes. Maybe teach English overseas, or find a writer or artist or anyone else to do a home swap with. I'm open, truth be told. Could look into some extended retreats, but if I'm gone for any length of time I need someone living in my home to care for the dog.

(takes a drink of Diet Coke, straight from the 2 litre bottle)

Well, I'm just throwing it out there ... if you know of anyone who wishes to experience a Canadian winter and care for a gorgeous hound dog, give them my number or e-mail address.

Kids are good, I think. Wish they'd come out here and help themselves to this garden. Swear to god, I've no idea why I planted such a large one. I can't keep up.

Oh, really? Hey, that's great. I'm glad to hear things are going so well for you. Really. It's--

Man, I had no idea it was so late, and here I've been rambling--

Yeah, well, thanks a whole bunch for calling, eh? Maybe this time next year I'll have some good stories to share. (pause) No worries ... I know how busy you've been. Say hi to everyone for me, okay?

Thanks, you too. (puts the phone down)

Hey, Jackie, where are you? Come give Mama a hug. Jackie!

(dog lopes in, and the woman drops to the floor beside him, stroking his fur)

You're a little shit, you know. Remember how you wrecked ten leashes before I found one strong enough to hold you? Remember when we lived in the city and the letter carrier threatened to stop delivering because you attacked the mail as soon as it went through the slot? How about those tasty shoes you devoured ... the irreplaceable pair Mark had just brought back from Thailand. (pause)

You know, I wish I didn't have such a good memory. Things come back to me, all the time. It's like no time's passed since 1987, or 1994, or 2001. I've got a lot of junk in my head, and sometimes when I wake up I pretend it's 1989, or 1998. 2005. That was a pretty good year. Sometimes any time is a better time than now.

(Lies beside the dog on the carpet. The room darkens, and the moon can be seen in the window. The dog and woman are spotlit. The wind-rustled papers are the only sound.)

Right now I'm thinking about sitting on the back step, in the city, wondering how the hell I'd manage the work of loving you on my own ... a job previously shared by four. I often had a cup of tea on that step, and you'd sit beside me. We'd be hip-to-hip, jowl-to-jowl. I remember one night in particular. Maybe the last night. We could smell the dog shit from next door, and the other neighbour's post-dinner hoot, and we sat there among the elm seeds and sirens, and Jack ... do you remember? ... we had this conversation:

You said: Are we doing the right thing?
And I said: It feels right, but how can we know?
Then you said: But I need you to be sure ... I'm trusting you, Mama. Goddamn it,
you are all I've got.

Lights down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The thing about beets is

they take a devilishly long time to cook. But enough about that.

Company on the weekend -- daughter and my friend Sean, both of whom are fellow woods- walkers \ berry-pickers \ wine drinkers and such.

Lovely rock ... too bad we didn't notice it was covered in red ants until after we'd sat on it.

And here is Taylor, in the hammock, with her lap top.

[See those deliphinium behind her? The hummingbirds go crazy for them.]

And here's the both of us, in my garden.

And Jackson, swimming.

Today has been a nearly perfect day.

I woke well-rested (no small thing); ran 10k with Jackson (highlight: a stampede of cows, running along the fenceline beside us);

picked saskatoons;

weeded for a few hours (and noted the peas are almost ready, and lettuce and raspberries were picked again);

read a book (Gerry Hill's excellent My Human Comedy) and wrote a review of the same;

dealt with some publishing business;

rode my bike to the lake and went for a swim (plus began reading my next book for review);

came home and ate garden salad \ potatoes \ beets \ raspberries;

played piano;

cut the grass.

So, what would have bumped a nearly perfect day into perfection?

A cheque in the mail;

a call from a friend;

faster-cooking beets;

and some loving.