Tag Archives: Canada

Reconstructing Summer


At the Newark airport
a small girl waits in line
with her parents.
She’s dressed in a frenzy of pink
that trumpets her arrival
and suggests that her parents
are happy to let her dress herself.
She notices the rope that keeps us in line.
Steps under it.
She grabs the metal post beside her
and spins around it,
the top of her head grazing the rope,
her long blonde hair flying out
in large hypnotic circles,

We discover how to use a GPS,
name her Beatrice.
One day, as she urges us over
an ancient wooden bridge,
we spot a small set of locks
under an awning of leaves.
We disobey her,
change our route
and sit on the bank
of the Rideau Canal.
We admire pink peonies,
breathe deeply
and think of a girl
we once knew.

I start a cloud collection.
I gather them from vast skies
above green fields of the Ottawa Valley
and pluck them from the various blues
that our planes pass through.
I stuff them in the pockets of my eyes,
and wonder if I’ve taken these clouds
for granted.
In the whole wide world
(at least the parts we’ve seen)
no other clouds compare.

We spend an afternoon at a farm
where my sister is housesitting.
A black lab named Ralph wins my heart
when he lies down with his large head on my feet.
Our parents have met us there
and we feast on pizza with green olives
and large glasses of iced tea
that leave rings of sweat on the table.
In the heat of the day,
soothed by the sound
of McDiarmids talking,
I fall asleep on the couch.
Later, we visit the chickens
who are both uglier
and more beautiful
than expected
and Megan introduces the one splendid rooster
who looks like he’s wearing harem pants.
I find that strangely fitting.
Over grey gravel roads,
my mother and I race
the storm clouds home

At our favourite ramen place
back in Yokohama
they’ve added lettuce to the big red bowl.
We wonder
if they saw us
and knew.
“These people haven’t had vegetables in days.”
Lettuce and ramen go together
much better than you might think.

Between three and six
in the morning
jet lag
pins me hard
against the glass wall
between asleep and awake.
But poems fill these hours:
images and words flow
like water over smooth stones,
they move like starlings,
plunging and soaring as one bird,
forming new patterns in my mind.
I write until I fall asleep.

When people ask about our summer
we’ll say it was fine. It wasn’t.
It was painful
in spots
but also filled
with so much beauty
that I couldn’t count it.


P.S. This was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive The Sunday Reader directly in your inbox every two weeks, you can subscribe here.

Bay Shore Road


As I walk home from the grocery store
I see a sign
I haven’t seen before.

Bay Shore Road.

I drop through the basement of time
where I’m a teenager
and my grandparents
have just moved from the small grey house
on the Rideau River
to a two bedroom apartment
in the west end of Ottawa.
A condominium on Bayshore Drive.

We are not apartment people,
my farming family.
When they bought their condo,
I had never been inside an apartment.

It felt like playing house.

My grandmother loved it.
She filled the space with antiques
and plants
and sunlight,
all her favourite things,
but the place was also small
which meant it was easy to clean.
{That’s what she told me.}

during a weekend visit,
my grandmother said,
“Why don’t you walk up to the mall.”
I had never been to a mall by myself
but if she thought it was okay
it most certainly was
so I followed Bayshore Drive
several big-city-blocks
to the shopping centre
where I bought a small brown purse
and a chocolate milkshake.

In the entire history of teenagers,
no one
has ever felt
grown up.

Now I live in Japan.
Now I live in an apartment
on the 22nd floor
near Bay Shore Road.

Japanese word for cloud

The Japanese word for cloud is kumo.
{It also means spider but that’s another poem.}

Home FieldCanadian summer
is short
but sweeter
for the shortness.
We spent
golden days
driving in
pried wide open
in Ontario,
by pioneer ancestors
just off the boat from
potato famines,
in Alberta
land claimed
and cleared
by their fierce
homesteading cousins.

cloud lake louiseOver vast spaces
sculpted by nature
and snatched from ancient forests
hung rolling fields of clouds.

cloudBanffIn Tokyo
and her surrounding cities
(the names of which
sounded to me
not so long ago
like tire companies
and motorcycles)
clouds are served
in slivers
on blue platters.
Cloud shavings
fall sideways
between columns
of gleaming glass
and concrete.

cloud coke signClouds
over Tokyo
revise themselves,
turn sky-sakura,
impermanent blossoms
transform this city,
home to more
than all of Canada.

cloud sakuraOver these cities
cloud formations
and shift
once more.
I wonder
if this is the world
re-setting itself.
Try again.

cloud yoko bldgTruly, Madly, Deeply,
a British film
for romantics
and people
who now find
themselves old.
A language teacher
and her Latina student
walk through a park
naming what they see.
I see clouds.
in Spanish.


The Noticers

We are observers
DP and I.

I’m a noticer of emotions,
the clouds that pass over a person’s face
when remembering
a small slight,
some words left unsaid
or too many words
expressed in anger.

I notice shifts in relationships
the small sea changes
of our love-comings and goings

I notice when people are lying.

I love the way
the homes of our friends say,
“This is who we are
and what we love
and how we choose to live.”

I am a sucker for beauty
in all of its forms
and also for kindness.
{Are they not often the same thing?}

We both love people-watching.

In a square in Barcelona
children play football
with their grandfathers
and the friends of your parents
become your family.

At school
we notice which kids are artistic
and which ones have big hearts
and which ones need to be encouraged
more often.

We notice
each other,
what the other
wants and needs
which is no small thing
after all these years.

DP is a very special noticer.

He sees tail-fins of whales
in the Atlantic
where I see only waves.

He always spots
the item for which I’ve been searching
in a grocery store.

He detects patterns
where I see chaos.

He sees poetry and math
as partners.

He sees the structure of stories
as clearly as I see metaphor.

He notices people’s agendas
and he knows
in his bones
whom we should trust.

at the Red House
in Newfoundland,
he notices the small shifts
in the diamond sea,
the mackerel sky
and the fog that rolls in
like ghosts.

His photos are proof
of his noticing.
He sees life
and captures
slight changes,
tumultuous beauty
the way my father tells a joke.

With his lenses
he captures the world
like stars caught
behind clouds on a clear night
in Newfoundland.

{These photos of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland were taken in July 2012 by DP who used a Canon 7D.}

Strawberry Jam Days

This is my mom. She worries that people of my generation (and younger) have forgotten or simply did not learn how to make jams and preserves. (She’s right.) About a week ago, on a gorgeous mid-July day, she gave my niece and me a refresher course.

So, in the spirit of keeping jam-making alive, here is my mother’s tried-and-true recipe.

strawberry jam
– Approximately 5-6 cups of strawberries (The amount needed will depend on the size of the berries. Your goal is to have 3 3/4 cups of mashed berries when they are hulled and mashed.)
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 7 cups white sugar
– One packet of liquid Certo or Pectin (Please check the best before date on the box.)

1. Hull (take out the stems) and mash strawberries until you have 3 3/4 cups.
2. Mix strawberries, lemon juice and white sugar. Put ingredients in a large pot on your stove top.
3. Bring to a boil while stirring frequently so that substance doesn’t stick to bottom of pot.
4. Add one packet of liquid Certo. Bring this to a full rolling boil for a minute to 90 seconds. (A full rolling boil occurs when nothing disrupts the boil including your stirring motions with a wooden spoon.)
5. Take pot off stove and stir occasionally for 5 minutes.
6. Remove top layer with a spoon and place it in a bowl. This layer will be lighter in colour. (My mom calls this the scum and we always eat it on our toast the week that she makes strawberry jam.)
7. Make sure that your bottles are sterilized with boiling water. Then fill the bottles with your jam.
8. Melt parafin wax in a tin can in a double boiler.
9. Pour enough wax on top of jam to seal it from the air. This layer is quite thin – perhaps half a centimetre.

Makes 5 small bottles of jam.
To make jam with other berries, use 4 cups of mashed berries and leave out the lemon juice.
My grandmother said that you should never make jam when it is raining. (I’m just saying…)

What is the most useful thing that you learned from your mother?