EVERY DOG AND WORD

These summer evenings have been just perfect for leisurely strolls.  The heat of the day is gone, but it is still warm.  The air is calm, with just enough of a breeze.  Oh, these lazy, hazy eves of summer!

IMG_1124You can literally say that everyone and their dogs are out.  I keep a tight rein on Sheba. She’s an excited girl.  Tonight she’s preoccupied sniffing every telephone pole and sign post.  We are not moving along fast.  It’s a step, step, then sniff, sniff.  It is a bit annoying. We are not getting an aerobic workout by any stretch of the imagination.  I have to remind myself that every dog needs its day.  I let her sniff to her content.  It’s her time.

It is the last day of July.  I should be at my keyboard tapping out something profound.  But the evening calls and we follow, past the church, its door lit like a beacon in the night.  We come by the playground with the big pencil pointing upward.  I know.  I still have my writing to do.  I will get to it when we get home.

I am here, trying to find those magical words.  I’ve left it too late.  They, too, have their time.  I have to give them more respect and not take them for granted.  Till tomorrow then, dear readers.  Tomorrow.  Good night.

THE DECADES OF MY LIFE

It’s the end of July.  The theme for this month on NaBloPoMo has been DECADES and today’s prompt:

What has been your best decade thus far: Your teens? Your twenties? Your thirties or forties or beyond?

There are no ‘best’ decades for me.  Each period brings its joys and sorrows.  I cannot remember a time free of angst or empty of happiness.  You cannot have one without the other, as the song goes.

childhoodI felt isolation in my teens, though I didn’t know it as such at the time.  We were one of only three Chinese families in our small town of 600.  My father and his cousin ran the Chinese cafe in town.  My mother knew no English.  We did not socialize nor participate in community activities outside of the cafe or school.

I had school friends  but I always yearned for connection with other Chinese people my age.  I guess that was why I took the Greyhound Bus by myself to Winnipeg at 17.  My desire was that strong that it overcame any kind of fear of going to a big city to stay with people I barely knew.

young nurseMy 20s was full of confusion and turmoil, fighting for identity and independence.  I dropped out of university, worked as a waitress, went to business school, became a steno, got fired from my first job as such.  I got a better job at the Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs.  I left the job after 2 years to take nurses training.  Got married and failed at that shortly after.  Whew!

Those were my most memorable decades – the young years of growing and learning and becoming.  How could I have ever done anything differently, not knowing the how of life? How could any of us?  But I felt the pain of every sling and arrow of failure and disappointment. When did I learned to doubt and beat up on myself with the should have’s and could have’s?

My 30s and after are a distant blur, much like the stories of my life as a nurse.  There’s not even any threads to grab onto.  They are like the will-‘o-the wisp.  Perhaps, with more unwinding and breathing out, they will come back to me.  Then, there will be stories to be told.

I am content, finding more peace in the now decade.  I have gained some wisdom. That’s no small thing.  Looking back, I see that I have done remarkably well.  I have lived life with confidence and adventure even when I was afraid.  I have done the best I could.

LEFTOVERS AND THE ROLLING STONES

Some songs have magic and it stays in your head.  As Tears Go By is playing for me again. It is almost the evening of the day.  I am showered and relaxed, sipping my tea.  The rice is on the stove, boiling over.  Why is it that I never catch it on time?  Thank goodness for leftovers that go on and on – much like Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

I’m having a bit of trouble with my words today.  Blame it on the heat.  Blame it on the painful joints.  Blame it on a creative block.  I wonder if Mick has these problems. Probably not.  His energy seems endless, his charm seamless and there’s no end to his creativity.  Or so it seems.

No worries.  Everyone has lapses.  What goes up must come down.  Spinning wheel got to go round.  Great! Now I’m into Blood, Sweat and Tears.  I’m dating myself at the same time.  Better call it a night.  After all, tomorrow is another day.  I can write tomorrow.

Good night, Scarlett.

 

 

 

 

 

SCRIBBLING LIFE

IMG_3266There’s a time like this when I am missing my laptop.  If I have it still, I would like to sit here, on the deck and tap away my melancholy.  I would watch each black letter march across the screen, forming words and thoughts.  No matter.  I will make do with my pen scribbling across the page.  I’ll tap later.

 

sheba on deckI am sitting here in the late afternoon.  I am comforted by its warmth surrounding me. My Purple Wave petunias greet me each time I look up from the page.  I hear the children laughing from the daycare near by.  Sheba sits at my feet.  I sip my tea.  Traffic rumbles from the front street.  The neighbour’s voice rasps her words.  A jet flies overhead.  I am in the midst of life.

Some announcements can knock the socks off your feet.  They bring tears to your eyes.  I am still stunned and disturbed over this death announcement.  Why am I feeling like this? This business of life and death is well known to both of us.  And sad news is no stranger. Still, it is hard for me to accept.

I knew her when she was a young intern and I, a wet-behind-the-ears nurse.  I remember-ed an incident when I called a Code Blue.  She and the crash cart arrived at the same time. I could not remember if the patient lived or died.

I knew her, but not well at all.  I had not known that she was ill.  Oh, the speed of it, the speed of mortality, of bad news!  It was like a thunderbolt.  It left me vulnerable, unprotected and unprepared – unwilling to face it straight on.

I scribble and erase cross out, scribble some more.  My pen moves across the page.  Birds chirp back and forth.  Traffic is whooshing by on Preston Avenue.  The sun shines on.  I am finished my tea.

IMG_5320

IT IS THE EVENING OF THE DAY

I’m hearing the melody of the Rolling Stones’ As Tears Go By.  I don’t know why.  Songs come to me much as words do – from out of the blue.  I’m singing the first line, It is the evening of the day.  And it is the evening of the day but I’m not shedding tears.

IMG_1112It was another one of those days again when the sun and clouds battled to be seen.  There was no rain.  My mother had been waiting for such a day when the family could get together and pay respect to my paternal grandparents at the cemetery.  We called it walking the mountain.  In the old country the burials were in the mountains.  Our village was called Mountain Top.

 

IMG_1486We bring food, light incense and burn paper money for my grandparents.  We bow and pour libation on their graves.  After we all have paid our respect, we have lunch.  Then we pack up and go home to come again next year.  It’s harder to get everyone together, especially now the kids are adults.  Some are in other cities for school or jobs.  We do the best we can.  I value honouring and remembering our ancestors.  It is where we came from.  I hope the young people do, too.

Now it is the evening of the day.  I am tapping out my words and thoughts across the screen.  I am feeling more mellow in the darkness of the night, even though the quiet is pierced by the sound of sirens of an ambulance and police car(s).  Music from next door drifts through the open window.  It is hard to find perfect silence.  Maybe it is only possible in my mind.

SUNSHINE, RAIN AND LEMONADE

I’m moving slowly and heavily through the day.  The weather is playing havoc with my body and my mind.  I am familiar with this game so I know the moves well.  First one foot, then the other and so on.  I am moving slowly but still making progress.

It rained all day yesterday.  But it was one of those comforting days you felt cocooned in the house and what you were doing.  The sound of rain falling was a soothing backdrop. It surrounded me with its music.

IMG_4891Today started off well enough with the sun lighting up my office in the early hours.  Oh, nice!  I breathed, ready for the day.  I went to put the tea kettle on.  By the time I came back, it had clouded over.  And so it stayed for the morning.

You have to play the hand day you’re dealt. This is where routines and rituals came to my aide.  They help push me through the day.  So I hurt and my head is all fogged up.  I’m not scheduled to do brain surgery today.  I have paid all my bills online yesterday.  Whew!  But I still need to eat.

I’ve been baking bread using the same recipe for the four years.  I know it by heart.  On a day like today, I decide to check it just to be safe. Better be sure then sorry that I goofed on the salt or the yeast.  Nothing worse than six loaves of salty and/or leaden bread staring at you, fresh from the oven.

Even then, I still thought as I went along.  Was that number 5 or 6 cups of flour?  How much honey did I put in just now?  I had to put a stop to my defective thoughts.  I needed to trust myself, no matter how uncertain I felt.  It was like running back to see if you had locked the door time after time.  Enough was enough!

IMG_1012It all went well.  There was a flow in the measuring, stirring and mixing. Kneading the dough soothed and cooled my aching hand and fingers.  It took my mind off the fog in my head.  No mishaps of too much/too little of ingredients.  Six loaves came out browned and wholesome.

In the meantime, the weather waxed and waned.  Clouds and rain followed by sunshine, followed by clouds and rain again.  In between Sheba and I managed to get our walk in.

You have to make hay while the sun shines and if you’re handed lemons, make that lemonade.  I like mine a bit on the sweet side, if you don’t mind.

 

DEATH BY CHOPSTICKS

FRIDAY FICTIONEERS

It’s Friday and time for fiction of 100 words, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

PHOTO PROMPT Copyright – Marie Gail Stratford
PHOTO PROMPT Copyright – Marie Gail Stratford

Fred’s tray was full – a Double Big Mac, Chicken Nuggets, double fries, a large root beer. and a free Premium salad with a coupon.  What a yummy deal of a meal!  He can’t wait to bite into it.

Mmmmm!  Looks good, taste great.  What’s this nonsense about McDonald’s meat not fit for humans?  Who is Chef Jamie Oliver?  He should mind his own business.

That kid better stop pounding on that toy piano.  Annoyed, he muttered,  “Chopsticks!  I’ll chop…”

He stopped mid sentence, sweat breaking over his blue face, eyes glazing over while the tinny strain of Chopsticks played on.

 

image from Google search
image from Google search

 

MESSAGE RECEIVED AND PROCESSED

IMG_0819Thunder rumbled and crackled.  Then the rain came – for a minute or two.  It was a dramatic sound display.

Now we are left with the heat, humidity and mosquitoes.  I am in a bad mood.  I hope no one expects lunch any time soon.  I am sapped of energy.  Sheba is lucky she got walked.  I can blame it on the positive ions left from the thunder.  Everyone knows that they are not great for our moods and well being.

I have to admit that I am not known for my pleasing disposition, even as a child.  Funny how some things stick in your mind.

29742_390272485886_7930121_nThe aunties in our village and my paternal grandmother were always telling me I was a grumpy girl and that no man would marry me.  My mother never told me that.  But the message took hold.  And that was how I always thought of myself.  I often warned people of my grumpiness – that it was me, not them that was the problem.  I turned sour and defiant inside.

These aunties and my grandmother would later tell me again that no man will have me because of the scar sustained from a burn.  It was big but on the inside of my left arm.  It was not readily noticeable.

IMG_6851I could not remember a time without the scar.  I was quite self conscious of it, wearing long sleeves and sweaters even in the heat of summer.  I hid it by holding my arm close to my body.  In a family photo shortly before we left Hong Kong, I was noticeably turning my arm to hide my scar.  There were times I wondered how my life would be different if my arm was smooth and whole.  But I could not conjure it up.  The gnarled scar tissue stared back at me.

I outgrew my sensitivity when I became a nurse. The uniforms were short-sleeved.  It was too much effort to be self conscious, trying to hide my scar.  I flaunted it and joked about it.  Eventually it ceased to be an issue.

Today, I see how vain I was.  So many people are walking around with bigger and more visible scars than mine.  But I realize that I was but a child then, sensitive and easily impressed.   Now, I know the adults were not trying to be mean.  They were just talking without thought, not knowing how their words affected me.

I had no voice then, but now I do and I am talking.

THE YIN AND THE YANG/ SENSE AND NONSENSE

Sometimes I am immobilized by those ‘light bulb moments’, when I see the truth staring at me in glaring black and white.  You know those Kodak moments, don’t you?  I am blessed/cursed with them at the same time.  I do not want to see the raw naked truth.  I rather not be in the know.  And that is the honest truth.  Is there any other kind?

photoI am a bit melancholy with a bit of wine and the truth.  Life looks better through rose-tinted glasses or in the dark sometimes.  I am talking through my yin yang, of course.  You would have to take what I say with a grain of salt.  Do you know that I knew time before electricity?  Yes, that is correct.

I saw my first electric light bulb when I was six.  My mother and I were overnighting in a hotel in Canton, en route to Hong Kong.  I had fallen asleep early in the evening.  When my mother shook me at dawn, I opened my eyes to a bright light dangling from the ceiling.  It was truly an Oprah light bulb moment

Do you know that I see ghosts, too, that is, when I was a child.  I no longer see them now that I am all grown up.  But I feel them still.  They are my friends, my angels.  I have learned to trust them, that they are here to look out for me.

Our HouseI remembered seeing them when I was playing on our rooftop in China.  I saw them standing beside my bed at night before I went to sleep.  I asked my mother, Who are all the people?  My mother saw that there was no one there.   She said, “They’re our ancestors.  Do not be afraid.”

I wasn’t afraid until I grew up.  Then I started to cross my slippers by my bedside.  One of my friends told me that would keep them away.  And it worked!  They visited me only on those nights I forgot to cross my slippers.

They do not visit me any more in the same way.  I sense them when I am quiet and still.  They let me know their presence when I am in need.  I am no longer afraid as an adult.  I am truly grown up.

It is now almost the bewitching hour.  Time to stop babbling about light bulbs, ghosts and such.  It is time to put the memories away and get ready for sleep and sweet dreams.

IS IT TRUE?

Photo on 2014-07-21 at 2.29 PMYesterday, I discovered exercise was the best medicine for my nervous jumping heart.  I was grateful for the loud music next door that pushed me onto my bike.  It was nice my SO (Significant Other) accompanied me.  We headed off to the library.

I kept my nervousness to myself.  No point voicing it, giving it strength.  I inhaled and exhaled.  I pedalled, pumping my legs up and down.  I saw them as pistons firing smoothly, moving the blood through my heart chambers, then out to the rest of my body.  I was safe.

We are at the library.  I find 2 books by my favourite kick-ass author, Janet Evanovich, Notorious Nineteen and Smokin’ Seventeen.  The titles alone give off more energy than spinach.  Look out, Popeye!  Wait, I’m not done yet.  Here is Olivia Chow’s memoir, My Journey waiting for me.  I hope she will win the mayorship of Toronto.  That Rob Ford need to be ousted.  You must know who he is.  He has been talked about on all the late shows in the U.S.A. – Kimmel, Letterman, Jon Stewart….

I found Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement in the next aisle.  I discovered her through the movie, The Joy Luck Club.  Reading her memoir, The Opposite of Fate, was like finding myself.  I recognized myself in her, my mother in her mother Daisy.  The lives of Chinese immigrants in America had the same familiar ringtone – even Olivia Chow’s.  I felt that Amy and Olivia were like my sisters.

I found one more book I could not resist – Byron Katie’s I Need Your Love – Is That True? I know, I know.  I wasn’t going to read any more self-help books for awhile but who could resist a topic like love.  And she asked a good question, Is it true?

photo curtesy of Rod McLaren
photo curtesy of Rod McLaren

Now I am done.  We load my treasures in my SO’s cargo bike and head for home.  I am relaxed, breathing in and out, pedalling easy and steady, not rushing, not worrying, not anxious.  My heart is in its place.  It’s pumping rhythmically in even strokes.  It’s singing that everything is fine.  And it is true.