Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn Rain

written Oct. 21, 2013, following almost two weeks of rain, which has left everything wet, and drear... and wonderful...

If it rains tomorrow

I will sort through paperwork

Clean up the office

Or the back room

Or the tack room

Or just the broom closet.

I will find five more ways to cook mushrooms

Those huge ones that just keep growing in this weather

I will cook with wine. Some of which I’ll put in the food.

I will make an enormous pot of soup

And sit with the dog on the couch to eat it

While watching Downton Abbey re-runs

I will speculate on the new season, without Matthew as the heir

I will share  crackers and cheese with my dog while watching Duck Dynasty, and admit to it.

I will put the raincoat on that dog, take the umbrella and we will walk by the lake

To find the muskrats, just the two of us.

I will rough out the Christmas newsletter, a month too early

Or sort through a closet and get rid of at least 55 shirts

I will stand in the porch, my fingers tangled in the dog’s wool

And grieve for my friend’s lost dog, that torn-away shadow of herself

I will remember my own lost dogs, and cats, with sweet sorrow

I will say a prayer for my friend in surgery in Toronto, but I won’t call

She won’t be home anyway.

I will curl by the fire with the cat in my lap and watch the rain slide down the window

While drinking hot tea. Me, that would be, not the rain. Rain rarely drinks tea, hot or cold.

I will read Pride and Prejudice. Or George R.R. Martin. Or both.

I will not be able to tell the difference.

I will dream of the summer just past, and the winter still to come

Of sunshine and snow and sunshine again.

I will watch the deer in the rain stretch tall on ridiculously thin legs

To steal the apples from the tree in my yard

If it rains tomorrow, I will do all of these things. Or none of them

Because rain in late October brings this great gift with it.




Tuesday, May 8, 2012

After the Storm

After the storm

We searched the beach for oracles

The telling of shells
Treasures tossed by waves
Relentless as heartbeat
We looked to the sky for omens
Birds flying together
Pelicans falling, wings folded, into the surf

The door closed behind you
Waves rolled back from the sand
Without return
Small pieces left behind,
Broken, iridescent in the sun

What is ugly is left by hands
Other than divinity
The storm has its own beauty
Fierce, unrelenting

Starfish formed constellations
Birds hung wing-wide against the wind
Surf shattered into foam
Fragments form the whole

I walked on the beach against the gale --
the sting of salt --
Until I forgave you.
Forgave myself
Until I understood
The oracle is within
There is perfection in broken pieces.

When the storm ends the sea calms
The waves washed answers to my steps
Smoothed away the anger
Temper, when we speak of steel, means strong
The ocean, too, is crucible

The storm is over
Castles and conventions untraceable
It is no longer for you to come back
But for me to go forward.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poetry Becomes You

For those who don’t know
Haiku from pentameter
Should be something
Itching in the mind
A blip on inner radar
A rock on the path
Tripping you hard
Into elsewhere

Slicing memory
Sticking behind the eyes
Shoving you from the familiar
To a strange perspective
Suddenly, utterly, your own
All of this a poem should do
All of this.
Or none

Some poems simply are.
Their words whisper only for you
Entering softly, unseen
Taking horizon within
Altering forever

Poetry becomes you.

all day the snow fell

All day the snow fell
Staying in the quiet places
On northern slopes, deep, shaded
The rest vanished into the sodden ground
As your words vanished in the air
Only their cold lingered

Is that what you believed?
Truth could change and none would know?
Love could be unchangeable
Trust could never be lost?
You believed you could lie to me

Snow touches faces, melting into tears
Hot salt, cold ice, all becoming one
Did you know I kept your letters?
Did you ever pause, watching the sky for a change
Did you believe no storm could touch you?

By dusk it was rain, gray sheets, like a shroud
Your words were ashes, the last curling in the fire
I walked away.
rain around me like armour
Snow remaining in the hidden places as a shield

When night fell, the rain ceased
Stars in my future
And you in my past.

Spring always comes, the sun always rises
The truth remains, shining.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holly, Dreaming

Holly, Dreaming

Holly was my dog for almost 17 years. My dog.
My first dog, Amy, was in honesty my Mom's dog... although she spent endless hours with me, if given a choice, it was my Mom she curled up with. And Toby, my second dog, who spent his 13 years adventuring with me, was first and foremost my Dad's dog. From the moment he saw my Dad, he essentially turned to me and said, "I'm with him." He rode in Dad's plane, Dad's boat, Dad's car -- leaning close against Dad's shoulder and wearing his baseball cap, inspiring local gossips to ask who was the blonde driving about with Paul. While Toby always came to sleep next to my bed, he rose very early, climbed the stairs and sprawled across Dad's bedroom doorway, to be sure Dad didn't leave without him in the morning.
But Holly, from the day we met and she crawled into my lap and fell asleep, was forever my dog. The dog of my heart. She left me last July, and her eulogy is posted on the Bondi Resort Blog.

Holly, Dreaming

Dogs dreams of chases

Who can believe

Such intensity, such focus

Scrambling paws, small barks

Dogs dream in rich landscapes

Dogs dream of chase


The delirious joy of running

Dogs dream of cats

Ascending trees.

Of rabbits, wind-fast

Dreams thick with remembered scent

The moist soil scrabbling away from paws

The glory of speed

Cats sleep near fires

Squared off, silent but for purring

Motionless as sphinx

And as secret

But dogs with aging eyes, old joints

Sleep with more intensity

Running down the air

I like to think I am in those dreams

A bond so ancient,

First dog at first fire,

Dreaming of first hunt, with first person

Cat will not say, ever.

But dog makes small noises

Calling me into her dream,

‘Come quick, come see!’

Tail thumping on the rug,

Remembering joy,

Times shared,


Dog dreams with such happiness

I like to think I am in those dreams

Posted by Nancy at 8:19 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Daniel, Cat and Herbivore

It's an old poem, but I still like it, so while packing away the clothes from that time of my life, and having moved on to new friends (one who calls her Cat "Mouse") I've kept the poem...

I went to visit Mary
(whose real name is Janet)
In her bachelor apartment
(which really is an attic)
And we fed her mice with breadcrumbs
Since we found little else
And discussed her latest sketches
(hoped to hell she’d sell some)

Her jeans were old
She had lost weight
The window was broken
The blankets thin
The nights cold
The cigarettes were borrowed
(with the coffee)
From a neighbour

But Mary (Janet) still smiled

And the mice
(Daniel, Cat and Herbivore)
Were tame.
I bought four sketches
(signed Susan)(done by Mary)(Janet)
(Cat chased Herbivore behind a sketch of Jarvis Street)

Hung them in my window.
A man bought them
($50 for four)
(signed Susan)
For $2000. And asked for Mary’s address.

When she moves,
I hope the mice go with her.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Song of Loss. A Song of Hope

This is a song of loss.

Paul White passed away last summer, after hosting his 105th birthday party. For 104 years, Paul lived on the Lake of Bays in his own house. It was decided he needed extra care. He moved into an apartment at his caregiver’s. Still on the lake.
At 105, you know the clock is ticking. Another friend, Yvonne, told us of her father, at 94, standing at another friend’s gravesite. Paddy, himself a sprightly 104, turned to him. “Do you think,” he asked, “with the time we’ve got left, it’s worth going home?”
“I don’t know about you,” her father replied, “I got a lot of living left!”
Paul told me magical stories. He knew my grandfather, and my father. He knew the lake. His own father founded Britannia, one of the great resorts of the great resort era. It boasted tennis courts, curling club, golf course, riding stables, live theatre, gardens, boats… My grandfather took the lake steamer across for a round of golf -- in 1926 playing the front nine on the 16th of January, he commented in his diary, “extraordinary weather.”
Britannia hosted the world’s elite. Margaret Hamilton, of The Wizard of Oz, bet young Paul he couldn’t jump off the bridge of the lake steamer, “SS Iroquois”. Paul beetled down to the lake, clambered onto the steamer, and – as she pulled away from the dock – dove into the water. Margaret was delighted. The Captain, less so.
He told me about sailing to England, 8 years old, joining the passengers lining the railings, waving at a passing ocean liner. He remembered her lit from bow to stern, dazzling, new, music playing across the water, her passengers waving back. He also remembered his ship turning around in the middle of the night, going back, spending the next few days picking up survivors and debris from the Titanic.
He knew, at 105, the clock would run out. He sorted his taxes, wound up affairs, and worked hard to complete his memoirs. Typical of Paul, the title was hopeful. “My First One Hundred Years.” He promised to autograph my copy, but at the end his handwriting was too shaky. I treasure it, even so.

About the same time that Paul was preparing to leave the lake, another piece of our history was also packing up. The Rotunda, at Bigwin Inn, was demolished this May. If you never had the good fortune to see this building, you are a tiny bit poorer for that. During the era of the great hotels, Bigwin stood with the very best in the world. She opened in 1920, and for the first 20 years, never showed a business loss. The Rotunda was the first building you saw, arriving by Steamer. Huge and dark, it grew from massive foundations of local Muskoka stone to its vast dark redwood interior. It was the centerpiece of the hotel, quite literally, anchored on one side by the Indian Head dining room and the Dance Pavilion on the other.
Its eight fireplaces could burn logs up to 5 feet long. The two end fireplaces soared upward as massive anchors to the design. They both had stone seats worked into the exterior sides, so you could sit on the wide verandah on a cool day and stay warm. A buffalo head watched from one side of the interior, a moose from the other. One was a local… the other, like the guests, was a visitor. Within the 26,000 square foot area you could find the reception desk, post office, telegraph. switchboard, safe, writing alcoves, nurse and doctor’s offices, hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons, children’s playroom, newsstands, offices and gift stores.
From the Rotunda, covered walkways called cloisters extended to the accommodations in the East and West residences, the lakeside dining rooms, the tearoom, swim dock, steamer dock, dance pavilion and tennis courts. You could, in short, go anywhere along these cloisters, never needing an overcoat.
These were built mainly by prisoners of war during the First World War. Not a bad gig – while the allied POW’s were housed behind barbed wire on short rations in war torn Europe, the German POW’s spent the day working at one of the world’s most beautiful islands. A quick swim after work, and off to the dormitory for a good meal and bed. Bigwin had its own farm – there was no shortage of food. On the down side, there were plenty of mosquitoes and blackflies. Serve them right.
It was not all fun in the sun, however. The water tower, which held 100,000 gallons of water, was built from cement – like the dining halls and the cloisters. To get this cement to the top of the hill, that was the task. Much of the required gravel came from Bondi, my grandfather’s farm at the head of Haystack Bay, where a convenient gravel hillside was close to the lake.
Gravel was moved by hand down across the field, loaded on a barge, and towed to the Island. Here, the barges were moored side by side – water from the lake was mixed with cement which had arrived by Lake Steamer and the gravel. The resulting cement was sent up to the water tower site in 5 gallon buckets, on a pulley system. It kept one busy…
From its opening in1920, Bigwin was THE place to go, attracting the likes of flying ace Billy Bishop, Group of Seven painter Franklin Carmichael; Glenn Gould, Ernest Hemingway, Donna Douglas, Clark Gable, the Rockefellers, William Wrigley (of Wrigley’s gum) and several Prime Ministers. During World War II, after the Netherlands fell, Her Royal Highness Princess Juliana spent her summers at Bigwin. The Constitution of the Netherlands was held in the office safe while she was in residence.
The Rotunda has left the lake, after all these years. Neglect and weather did the worst of the work. Some of the fireplaces and the foundations have been preserved, along with the tea house. The new owners have restored the big round dining rooms by the shore and reconstituted the golf course into one of Canada’s finest. The Dance Pavilion fell to weather and neglect just one year before plans were finalized to stabilize and preserve it. This is how we lose our past, a little at a time. And how we remember.
A memory of the Titanic passing in the night. A swan dive from the bridge of a lake steamer. Stone chimneys, towering into the Muskoka sky, a reminder of a different time.
Paul’s book, unsigned. The tea room, scheduled to be restored and reopened, with a plaque about the Rotunda.
The lake is quieter with these great characters gone, but still hopeful, like Paul’s book title, anticipating the next 100 years.