Category Archives: Wander

The Orange Backpack


“When you talked earlier about after a few years how a couple would begin to hate each other by anticipating their reactions or getting tired of their mannerisms ~ I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone ~ the way he’s going to part his hair, which shirt he’s going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he’d tell in a given situation. I’m sure that’s when I know I’m really in love.”

~ Celine to Jesse, from the film Before Sunrise


Typhoon Train Story


We planned to leave Ito
at noon on Sunday
but it rained
all night long
and the windows
shuddered in the wind.

We woke early
and caught
the local to Atami.
Across the aisle
sat a woman with a tight bun,
excellent posture
and a navy blue suit.
A Japanese doppelganger
of my Inner Editor.
{The one who whispers
nasty things
while I write.}

At Atami
we boarded
the green car
on the Tokyo train.
Reserved seats,
chocolate wafers,
my iPhone and
my moleskin.

At every stop
along this route
that hugs the sea,
people rushed
from the train

{umbrellas exploding}

seeking shelter
from the advancing storm.


Paris. {Always a good idea.}

red umbrella

The first time I visited Paris
we lived in Mexico.
From Mexico to Paris
is not just a flight
it’s a different freaking star system.
They give you a new brain,
a chic wardrobe
and as much cafe au lait
as you’d like
but only for breakfast.

I’d been reading for months,
learning the rules:
1. Always say “Bonjour Madame or Monsieur” when entering a shop.
2. Do not pick up items in stores. {This includes everything from sweaters to oranges.}
3. Move quickly and in the correct direction in the Metro.
4. Be aware of scams and thieves.
5. Dress nicely for the butcher. {That means everyone.}

You see, I’d never been to Europe.
I wanted to be
an expert.
Later, rule number four would prove useful
in Barcelona. And in Japan,
all these rules have proved helpful
except number four
which is simply
not relevant.

In the onyx light of early morning
our taxi sped from Charles de Gaulle
to the 7th Arrondissement
{a word that has taken me a decade to master}.
As the squat houses of the suburbs clicked over
we travelled back in time. I awoke
outside our hotel, surrounded by six-storey Haussmann.
I cried.
DP said, “It’s okay. You’re just tired.”
But it wasn’t that.
It was the beauty.

From the window of our room,
the street told a story
like a movie.
A woman in a red peacoat
and black rubber boots
carried a brown paper bag
filled with long loaves of bread.

A green wooden box of red geraniums
hung below our window.

As we descended the stairs
into the metro at Ecole Militaire,
I reached for DPs hand.
People hurried in both directions
and the tile-covered walls pulsed
like a heart.
Light yellow tiles
like lemonade
or butter on toast.

At a cafe, a small girl with excellent posture
and a green velvet jacket sat with her mother
and two aunts frosted in silk scarves
and impeccable ponytails.
They let her pour the hot chocolate
into their white porcelain cups.

The Mona Lisa was not smaller than I imagined.
{I’d done my research.}
I was not fully prepared for her smile,
the pull of it, how I’d seek her out
in that too-warm room
where the guards kept
an eye
on our attachment.

Under the lights of the Eiffel Tower
we ate chocolate crepes
and took photos
of the carousel blur,
cotton candy pink horses
and their small riders.

The airport shuttle showed up
on time
sleek + white + alien.
We drove around the city
plucking other travellers
out of their dreams
and vacations.
We crossed a bridge.
It was raining.
I cried.

Paris, I think,
is a woman’s city.

Extra Lollipops

extra lollipops 2

The movie didn’t start till ten
so we scanned the massive mall
of concrete block stores
for a place to eat.


and seated
by super-cool
teenage boy wearing the required shirt,
red plaid,
and a pair of jeans
just one small movement from falling off his hips.
The very least-Calgary boy,
a misplaced surfer
or skater.
Possibly a poet.

We read the menu,
fought the steak or salad battle
(they have excellent salads),
placed our order from a young man
with less hair,
and jeans not in peril
of dramatic self-liberation.

With crayons, we drew
on the brown wrapping paper
that covered our table.
Ordered a margarita
that arrived
with a parade of salt around the rim.

Little girl wandered into the kitchen.
The waiter bent down,
kindly asked,
“Are you looking for the washroom?”
Her father picked her up.
“She’s looking for food.”
A whoop of laughter
was launched
from the table behind us.
I turned.
A woman mouthed,
“We’ve been waiting for an hour.”
I looked around
but she was addressing me.

We continued to talk and draw and drink.
The people at the next table
shared with the waiter
their loud tales of woe.

A second complaint.

Then a third.

A poster in the Women’s bathroom
advertised four different jobs
in the restaurant.
It’s hard to get people
in Calgary
to work for minimum wage
when a small house
costs half a million.

Their meal arrived
with another apology from the waiter.

When the cheque was requested
the meal was comped.

when we asked for our bill
the waiter said,
“I really appreciate your patience
as we all help out
in the kitchen.
I’m just a server
so I can’t give you a free meal
but I brought you extra lollipops.”

I want to remember
to be happy
with extra lollipops.

Thin Places: Shimoda, Japan

7There are thin places
on earth
where heaven
seems close enough to touch.

There are probably more than we know.

In March,
for my birthday,
we spent a weekend
in a small hotel
outside Shimoda.
Snuggled at the bottom
of the Izu Peninsula,
the port of Shimoda was,
in the 1850s,
the first to welcome
American trade.

The invisible door
between Japan
and the rest of the world
slid open.

Shimoda became the place
the gods went to frolic
and fish.

Ohama Beach is where they propose marriage
to their partner-gods.
The light in this place
makes one want to say YES!

On endless summer days,
the dark-skinned teenagers of the gods
run through burning sand to the sea
with surfboards of magenta
and apple green.
Brave wave-riders,
they try to enter heaven
through the thin space
between the blues.

Every Shimoda moment is a poem.

Here are a few for you.