Last night I was watching Philip Bloom films, first on Vimeo and then on his wonderful website and blog where he is responsive and open and helpful to others seeking to make pictures and tell stories of their own. 

I am inspired by all of his work, but this one seems to share a view of a city’s people and moments I strive to capture in words. 



queen of hearts

29 October 2009

As a baby, her face would light up with the most infectious bliss when she set her eyes on a loved one. As a toddler, she could contort that little face into the most miserable misery or ferocious ferocity when things didn’t go her two year old way.

I remember once when she was about five, my sister and I were out walking and she and her brother were ahead of us on their bikes. She was WAY finished with this bike ride and absolutely couldn’t bear to pedal one more centimetre. And her mother, as mothers do, was ignoring the whining and the complaining so she expressed her unhappiness with her entire body ensuring we could, from a block behind, fully understand her feelings. You never saw such draping and flopping over the front of any tricycle – you’d swear she was operating a slave ship and she was the only rower. I tell you, Sarah Bernhardt had nothing on this kid. Margaret O’Brien? Forget it.

Another time we had a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to her up at the cottage and I swear you could have given that kid a hundred presents and a thousand lollipops and they wouldn’t have been even a smidge as wonderful as that birthday cake.

Ever since she was a tiny little tot, she’s been an actress, wearing her emotions from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.  Tonight she’s playing the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.

Knock ‘em dead kid.  You’re the queen of a lot of hearts already.


Our favourite drama queen

creative colleagues

28 October 2009

When a creative person like me works in a technical environment, she always takes great pleasure in finding out there are other creative sorts around.  Turns out my colleagues Marion and Marty are beautiful and active photographers. Visit Marty’s website, Mortis Photography, and Marion’s work linked within it under “Blue Moon.”


oh the games we play

27 October 2009

Last night I’m having a quiet dinner in the corner of The Lion and I’m trying to read my book but I keep getting distracted by a couple having an intense conversation at the next table. I’ve seen this fella in here before, having dinner and an academic sounding discussion with another younger woman in the past. This makes me think that maybe he’s a professor or a writer, I’d say somewhere in his late fifties or early sixties. I can’t see her face, but judging by the rises and falls of her voice and the perky lilt of her laugh, I guess her to be in her twenties still – probably a grad student.

I start to become mildly annoyed by the distraction – the lights in the place are dim and I have to stay really focused on the pages in order to read and I’m really enjoying the book. When I first sat down I thought, hey good for them, I’m all about academic conversations, there’s nothing I like better than having a lingering talk myself with someone who challenges me.  But the quality of the intenseness in the man’s voice soon gets interesting.  Because even though I’m not making out more than a word here or a phrase there, it is clear that the conversation at the next table has nothing whatsoever to do with academic anything. Our guy is hitting on her, and she’s loving every second of it.

It’s really amazing how you can understand exactly what’s going on between a couple without actually hearing what they’re saying. The vocal inflections and the body language tell the tale.

Every time I glance over he’s leaning toward her looking at her intently, as if the things coming out of her mouth are the most inspired thoughts imaginable. She starts expounding on some theoretical sounding notion and then giggles delightedly as he gazes with wonder upon her cleverness. He then takes whatever it was she was just talking about and turns it back around to her and asks her some question related to what she was talking about, but designed to get her to talk about her personal self. Every now and then he snaps “stop it!” in a teasing way, as if he just can’t stand the marvellous way she affects him so.

I have absolutely nothing against May-December romances – I love the idea of matchups that are a product of chemistry and magic rather than convenience and societal or cultural slotting. But what I suppose I found so annoying in all this was the implication that it was something else – a talk about psychology or sociology or whatever it was that he kept twisting around to bring the conversation to a personal level. I suppose it’s just that I like men who are direct. If they’re not direct with me, then I never seem to know where to go with it. But that’s just me – smart certainly, and dense. And I can flirt with the best of ‘em, but flirting is playful. This conversation just seemed rooted in deception.

So the whole thing got me thinking about one or two conversations-laced-with-am-I-ever-attracted-to-you over dinner with a particular man in that very corner of that very pub. The flirting was open and welcome while the conversation deep and challenging. He never had to lean into the table and look at me intently and steer discussions and pretend that the topics just happened to bring out fascinating responses in me. He liked me; I liked him; and the occasional brush of leg or squeeze of hand was a promise for later. In the meantime we talked and there was no pretence; there was nothing false about it.

Maybe it’s time I gave him a call.

So the other night I’m on my way home and arrive at the final connection where I catch the streetcar home from work.  I’ve got some heavy bags and I’ve been working really hard this week and I’m just itching to kick off my shoes and put my pajamas on.  As several of us exit the bus at a transit “loop” my streetcar is just arriving.  Hooray!  I trot – as best I can, with my bags to the car as it deposits someone, and then I begin to walk, because obviously the driver has seen me and the others walking over to the common connection point.

Just as I reach the back of the streetcar it pulls away.  I start jogging again and flip my heavy bags over to one arm and attempt to flail the other one – what the heck?  Many drivers can be cranky and not in the mood to pull a kindness, but certainly this was just plain rude.  On the car goes around the corner to begin its journey back westward toward downtown. 

I have a small temper tantrum, hollering “THANKS” after the car and giving it an angry wave.  I press on through the loop and come around the corner to find it waiting to make a right turn on to Kingston road, so I jog again, but on the car turns.   Another loud “JERK” comes out of my mouth as I walk on, thinking more longingly of supper and the warmth of home and pouting over the slight. 

I walk up a block or so and see a bus coming, which will also turn around at the loop, so I turn to go back to the bus stop.  At that point a woman says to me, “That streetcar was out of service, the sign in the back window said it was out of service.”

I thanked her for telling me, for not having to go home dwelling on what I had perceived as unkind behaviour.  No one was rude.  No one was slighting me – it was simply a streetcar driver finishing a shift and probably thinking about his or her warm house and dinner with all the longing I was.

And then I was embarrassed for my behaviour.  Sure, I wanted to be home, and I was tired and hungry.  But another bus or car comes along in a few minutes, and really the delay was insignificant. I felt like a spoiled child.  And I hoped I wouldn’t have to see that woman and the few other commuters at that loop the next day because I behaved like a child.

It’s a lesson that I seem to need to learn over and over again.  Walk in the other person’s moccasins for a minute.  Get outside of your own head.  It’s not always about you. 

Not the one who just got married.  The other one who also happens to be breaking out of a starting gate into a new life.  In this case:  high school. 

Alas, it was only two weeks ago I rode high in this nephew’s “favourite friends” list, and now I’m out.  Cut off.  Me the fun artsy aunt who’s always done fun artsy projects with him and my nieces.  The one who was always sort of an extension to his mother, he said – in a good way.  Oh, and the mom – the equally cool, fun, happy mom?  She’s out too.

Okay I get that he had to make a choice – Facebook had to become either for friends only, or include family.  And there is a LOT of his family on Facebook.  Even a grandmother and a few great aunts.  It’s become something of a family forum, and that’s where the kid’s problems started.

See, there was this little incident of a swear word on a certain Facebook status for all the world to see, and a certain mom having an issue with it and a certain kid having computer privileges taken away.  You’re absolutely right, we all said (us grownups anyway).   It was a reckless, dumb teenager thing to say in a public realm, and my sister had every right to be angry about it – his Facebook is a reflection of him, and by extension, his family.  The kid needs to know how to behave around different audiences.  It’s an important grownup skill. 

So he had to make the choice.  I’m sure I would have done exactly the same thing he did when I was his age.  I would have made a big sigh and said to myself, hey, this is my new teenager world and it’s big and exciting and I don’t want no mom or no sisterly extension of my mom (even if she is fun and artsy) looking in the window.  It’s mine.  My high school friends don’t care if I say fuck on Facebook.  (Although, the closest thing we had to Facebook back when I was in school was passing a note around in math class.)

So I really do understand.  He is embarking on a brand new level of maturity – from my 48 year old perspective, reckless profanity – not so mature.  Go ahead and be an ass (his mother’s honest to goodness fear) around your high school buddies all you want – but not around relatives and grownups. Looking through my teenager eyes I’m thinking, what’s the big deal? 

My nephew is taking that new and exciting road into greater independence and freedom, and I don’t have to know all about it – nor do I want to.  I remember how great it felt to explore who I was and grow into my marvellously individual self and have more and more freedom to do so.  And teenagers deserve privacy just like the rest of us. We need to let them take these little steps giant leaps even though sometimes they’ll stumble.  We did.  Most of us turned out just fine. 

I suppose I’m just feeling a little sad I’m not of that top friends list anymore; my nephew’s world has grown that much larger.  I’m feeling sad that he didn’t go public about his new (first) girlfriend until after he locked me out, I had to hear about it from my daughter who’s still “in.”  And I’m feeling, for my sister, that mild sense of panic I felt when my own kids went to high school and everything changed.  It’s a melancholy aunt love that’s feeling both thrilled and sad about the boy she loves from the bottom of her heart who is turning into a young man, and before we know it, a man.

Happy birthday Aunt Martha.  Lots of us are thinking about you. 

It was supposed to be windy and rainy with snow flurries and cold today, like winter.  But instead we got this perfect October day: clear and crisp, with a sun shining so bright on that red and yellow and orange vegetation it hurt your eyes. When Cathy and I noted your birthday, she said “the sun came out for her.”

And I don’t doubt for a minute that’s true. Actually you were the one who taught us about magic like that. And to appreciate perfect autumn days like this one.

Aunt Martha, we remember you on your birthday and in many other moments because you are central to some of our most important memories. You were like the grandma your mother didn’t have the chance to be.  And we really hope you know now that you really did imbue her spirit.  You did.  We’re all carrying around a piece of her.  And you. 

And it’s on perfect October days like this that we’re particularly thankful for it.