Hanging On

Just a few days ago in my neighborhood I walked by this apple tree. We had already had one snowfall and there wasn’t a leaf on the trees but these apples had somehow held on. If you look closely you’ll even see a red one up close to the high balcony. It made me smile. Harvest time was long gone. Certainly I didn’t think these apples were very delicious – in the month of December! What had made them hang on for dear life. Was it dear life? Or was it a sort of death, this clinging on to the twigs where they had once been blossoms, tiny fruit, ripe apples and now – now what were they exactly?

This sight made me think about times I had hung onto things that had outlived their natural cycle, their natural life. Objects, clothes, books (a really hard one) dreams, ideas, but hardest of all, relationships. It’s hard to let go of people even if they are a damned pain in the neck. It seldom occurs to me that perhaps I am the damned pain in the neck that is causing conflict. How awful it is that one only gets insight so late in life. I certainly could have saved myself and some unfortunate others a lot of grief if only I had taken seriously the wonderful Zen saying, “Let go or be dragged”.

To let go is scary and sad but it is an act of liberation too. I really wonder about those apples and when they are going to “let go”. Tomorrow on my walk, I’ll go that way and see what happened to them.

Lunch at the Park

Almost every day I go to the local park and do laps, climb up the toboggan hill backwards and forwards and look at clouds.

Sometimes this fellow and his mate show up. They usually perch on top of the light posts, much higher up than this but yesterday they were intent on lunch. There are a lot of squirrels in the park and yesterday one was particularly bold, or canny. He sat perfectly still, about ten feet away from this beautiful little bird of prey on top of the fence. How lucky was I to have my phone in my waist pack, and how lucky was I that they both seemed frozen in the moment of waiting. I got the feeling that the squirrel was hoping that if he didn’t move, the bird would ignore him. I got the feeling it was beneath the dignity of the bird to chase this squirrel up and down a chain link fence.

I kept on walking, leaving them to it. It might have been satisfying to see the bird catch the squirrel. They really one of my least favorite animals. The day before, one of them bit off the top of a sunflower in my garden and sat munching the seeds right on the steps in front of my kitchen window. What made me stop, put down the broom and let him have his meal in peace? Winter is coming and one can feel the air cooling, see the leaves falling from the grape vine to allow the pinkish or black grapes to finally ripen in autumn sun. Everything is in survival mode now and I must have mercy even upon squirrels.

The squirrels are nervous. I wonder how long my pair of little falcons (is that what they are) will wheel and glide over my city park. They have been a beautiful presence over the hot summer and fall. Winter is coming. Snow will fall on the track before long – but not just yet. For now there are sunflower seeds, ripe grapes – – and squirrels to eat.

Eating with the Ancestors

 For how many hundreds of years did poor  Irish survive on potatoes and milk, cheese or butter?  That with cups of tea was the staple diet. Of course, the nice cup pictured here is more along the lines of ” lace curtain Irish” as my mother would have put it. A dear friend of mine came by and left me some wonderful new potatoes and I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had a full basket in my pantry. So…today my lunch was  boiled potatoes and cheese. I heard generations of Cunninghams express their approval from the misty heaven where they reside enjoying celestial Guiness and legs of lamb. 

An accidental Harvest

 I really didn’t mean to grow potatoes. I had read that if you stuck a rose cutting into a potato and buried it, a rooted rose plant would result. It didn’t so I pulled out the dry stick and threw it away. I forgot about it. ((don’t mock me)
Weeks later some beautiful plants sprouted in a flower pot in a corner of my garden. When little white flowers appeared I recognized ….potato plants! My granddaughter pulled out the first one, peeled it and, with some ordinary grocery potatoes it was a tiny part of dinner.

If life gives you roses, smell them. If your harvest is potatoes….fry them!

Dark Beauty

Bright yellow and pink in the city garden.

Blazing sun and dazzling colors.

After days of baking heat, at last welcome rain

and these darker beauties.

Clematis coddled and anticipated

opens like a Japanese sunshade to reveal

a purple that puts the pallid roses to shame.

On cue, a mysterious visitor, his brown and iridescent wings

boldly carry him to a stick that holds some mysterious attraction.

Surrounded by scents and blooms visited by drunken bees

he, severe and austere, remains faithful to his choice.

Goundhogs and Fireflies

img_20200618_200022356It’s summer with all the luxurious roses and the brilliant buttercups that enchant a young photographer. Today’s image was made by my granddaughter who has suddenly developed an interest in photography.

It is tremendously hot in Montreal and the good weather has been holding for days. I thoughtlessly planted a lovely rosebush on my mother’s grave about 10 days ago and watering it has been something of a chore. Because of Covid 19 access to the big mountain cemetery has been limited to late afternoon and  evening. Only one entrance can be used by cars. I am on foot and that means I have been getting my exercise by walking from the gate at the higher level through the old section with its wonderful trees and monuments and then up a steep incline to the top where my mother’s black headstone sits baking in the merciless sun. Fortunately a dear friend has been giving me a lift from time to time. Besides the inaccessibility of the site, the taps set here and there for relatives to water their plants and shrubs have mainly run out of water. I scout around on lower levels to find a tap that works or when I get a lift bring my own water! We met a widower the other day who promised to water my mother’s precious rose bush. It  is already blooming with many pink blossoms. However, I know I will not rest until the heat wave is over and I can trust rain to once again take over my duties.

The groundhogs, you ask? I saw two lovely ones up in the cemetery and then, as if to remind me of my responsibilities the next day – – a fat one in my city garden. He was bustling away under the fence. When he heard me he turned as if to say, “Well, is there a problem here?” and off he went.

Fireflies appeared that evening as I was watering my plants in the blessed darkness. I have a stubborn clematis that does not want to open its magnificent purple blooms, but it too will yield to the heat and length of days. In the meantime the little flashing lights, pulsating with mysterious life in the dense leaves, remind us that other lives, other forces are at work.

Covid 19 Test

person hand on steering wheel

Photo by Lê Minh on Pexels.com


Magic bus driver in the Covid screening bus,

you don’t take my ticket through the low slot

of the plastic barrier that cuts the wattage

of your brilliant smile.

You take my medicare card, sanitized, in order.

In return, you, the driver, give me a ticket.

The three magic questions,” Do you have symptoms?, Have you been

in contact ….?” The right answers, any answers grant me admission to the

bus with no seats.

Nurses (later I learn they are not nurses) decked out in Covid regalia on the

hottest day of the year, wait to test me in the bus with no seats.

Four cubicles. A figure in a sanitary burka peers at me.

A Quebec scandal!

“anglais ou francais, Madame?” Through the barrier of our masks and

my diminished hearing, we arrive at the compromise of “franglais”.

a ping-ping of both languages in which we are both fluent.

A long swab down my throat elicits a discrete gag on my part.

Then the nose. “Sit still” I tell myself, “If Trump can do this every morning,

you can do it this once.”

All done and I am released through the back door of the magic bus.

Like a sheep guided through the “it’s for your own good” dip,

out I go into the blazing parking lot of my beloved library.

Why did I test? As we say in Quebec, “Le coeur a ses raisons.”

Magic bus driver, stop giving tickets! Take the wheel.

Let the wheels of your bus grow light, transparent, buoyant,

Slam down the gas pedal and carry us away from

Montreal, plague city, city of wary looks, masks, no touch, death.

The next day an email. Negative. For today.