decency and indecency

 

One is fueled by love,

which,

among other things,

includes altruism and respect…

the other is fueled
by fear,

which includes anger and greed.

In everything we do
every choice we make
we’re moving toward
either love

or
fear…

Love or fear.

There is no other direction.

 

*
With thanks to Elizabeth Kubler Ross… and John Lennon, whose wisdom I paraphrase.

 

this is not a review: ‘everybody’s different on everybody street’, written by sheree fitch; illust. by emma fitzgerald

 
This morning I made a pot of lemon verbena/peppermint/orange mint tea with leaves from my garden and read Sheree Fitch and Emma Fitzgerald’s extraordinary Everybody’s Different on Everybody Street.

Is there a better way to start the day than tea and a (picture) book?

Answer: hardly.

And so I sipped. And marvelled over the brilliantly colourful, completely delicious illustrations… (birdcages on head, balloons up one’s skirt, laundry and tomatoes on the roof, street meditation in the presence of turtles [personal favourite], an empty fridge, a command to dance, someone in a wheelchair, others kissing in a tree, a homeless man, an angry woman, images of loneliness and images of joy, all woven against a background of a father reading a story to a young child who imagines this ‘Everybody Street’ as crowded with so many ‘others’ and who comes to realize all of those people are actually one…that we are all of those people and all of those people are us… “Yes… EVERYONE is travelling on EveryBody Street and EveryOne IS EveryOne and AnyOne you meet…”

And as I read I could feel emotions rising as the everbodyness  contained in Fitch’s buoyant poetry practically floated off the pages.

This book is a testament to community, and to joy. It’s also about mental health/illness in its many forms. And to be honest, the power of it kind of takes you by surprise.

Oh but we are in such good hands here because, as only Fitch can do, we are gently (playfully!) shown that all those people who look and act ‘differently’, who for whatever reason fall outside the punishing parameters of what society calls ‘normal’… are simply displaying aspects of being human that we all share.

The very young will only see peacocks and happy chaos… in the way of the very young, who don’t judge. But the message of inclusivity is there, the subliminal suggestion of non-judgement and, for those old enough to understand or who, in the company of a reader sensitive enough to explain, it becomes a thing to celebrate, to embrace, the beginning of meaningful conversation.

I look forward to sharing this with my eight year old niece. We will eat french fries at the beach while we read and we will talk about how we feel some of these feelings some of the time and we’ll notice people around us and make up lives for them… and remind ourselves that they have feelings too.

(The Afterword, written by Fitch, explaining the motivation behind the story, and the difficulty of taking on this subject, is an equally powerful read, in which Fitch says “I don’t like poems that tell me how to think; I like poems that make me think.”)

What a bold book.

And what an important one.

 

I got my copy at Blue Heron Books, and you can too!

Support indies!

 

beach seens on an almost deserted beach

The guy who looks so bored you wonder why he even comes to the beach, never taking more than a few steps onto the sand, looking around as if to find ‘something’ but the something just isn’t there… no hanging gardens of Babylon, no herds of wildebeest (to quote Basil Fawlty). He scowls, checks his phone while the woman he’s with wanders nervously in small circles nearby, never really hitting any kind of happy confident stride, probably because she knows they never stay anywhere long enough.

And then they leave.

Two teenagers, chattering and smiling, walk by hand in hand with the energy of puppies let off the leash.

Three girls, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, walk waist deep into the water and stand there laughing and squealing. They are in love with each other in the way that only girls of that age can be. Swimsuits all the same shade of navy and neon pink, but different styles.

They will either all swim or none will.

A couple has erected a tent on this windy day. We’ll see how that works out.

The girls are still squealing, still standing waist deep, but not swimming.

The tent is still up but requires constant attention and as if the people in it have no understanding of wind, what they choose to read on this windy day is a newspaper.

The girls have come out of the water, no swimming, but they’re soaked anyway and are now wrapping themselves in towels which they hold strategically for each other as they slip in and out of wet and dry things in the way only girls of a certain age can do.

The tent is eventually taken down.

This bird has been with me for most of the morning.

We’re both beginning to think about lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

wordless wednesday: summer postcards

 

Greetings from the garden tour!

(aka outdoor galleries of love, green stuff incidental)

The woman whose backyard is a solid field of day lilies (hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them) and who at first I think must be slightly unhinged until she explains her joy at every day coming outside to see what new bloom among dozens and dozens of varieties has opened. She not only grows them but cross pollinates to create unique hybrids and borrows her kids’ backyards because there’s no room in hers anymore. She wins awards.
Hers husband is on the patio, watching the crowds, and as I leave I stop and say to him, Nice place but you ought to consider getting some day lilies…

The woman who turned a tiny shaded downtown lawn into a glen of cool sanctuary complete with three locally made wrought iron pyramid towers and places to sit and contemplate them.

The woman with a deck full of passion flower vine and other tropicals who doesn’t have a sun room in her house but simply asks the plants to do their best in various windows and they oblige her and are stunningly beautiful and vibrantly healthy. Singing to them doesn’t hurt she says when asked for tips.

The woman whose yard is full of crazy objects, tea cups hanging from branches, giant wooden playing cards nailed over three sides of fencing, mirrors, bird feeders, figurines, mobiles, sun catchers, flea market and thrift shop finds… too much!!  my brain screams as I wander in and consider wandering out again but just then the woman appears and we talk and her joy changes the scene from something I don’t understand… to one that brings utter contentment and peace as she explains the pleasure it gives her to see it all from her kitchen, or from her place on the couch. She would rather look out the window than watch TV on a rainy day, she says. She puts this stuff out each spring and puts it away again in giant bins each winter. It’s time consuming and possibly a form of madness she laughs, but I shake my head, say it feels more like her form of art. She nods. Then she takes me round to the front to show me a few things I might have missed on my way in.

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

menstrual memories anyone?

 
A new anthology, called GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times, is making some people uncomfortable… why must these things be spoken of??

And making others relieved… thank god we can finally speak.

Because I have a short piece in the book (about the perils of attending a pool party in the 1970’s), and because I believe in saying the word menstruation out loud,
I recently sat outside Blue Heron Books with a little sign that said Menstrual Memories?  —  And waited to see what would happen.

Young children were rushed past.

Men looked uncomfortable. Women too. One woman actually sneered.

But after a while, I noticed people coming back, and some of them stopped. Then many more stopped. It was as if they’d been initially blindsided by the question… but… now that you mention it, yeah, I do have some memories I’d like to share.

And so they shared.

Menstrual memories.

And why not?

A man asked if he could take a picture of the table. I asked if he had any menstrual memories. He said no. We laughed and I liked that the word was spoken between genders. It’s hard enough sometimes just between women.

And that of course IS the whole point of the book, i.e.Why are women made to feel awkward and embarrassed about a basic function of biology?

The first to stop was an 83 year old woman from Cape Breton who whispered about shame and flannel cloths worn like diapers, about the horror of washing them and hanging them to dry. After a few minutes she stopped whispering as one memory twigged another and her friends got into it, all of them swapping stories, and I could tell they’d never had this conversation or anything like it before. As she began to leave, she stopped, smiled and said thank you, this has been fun. She seemed slightly surprised that it turned out that way. And I have no doubt that part of the fun was the relief of speaking the words… at last.

Following are memories so many women shared with me… on a sidewalk, outside a bookstore, on a beautiful summer night… in their own words:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My aunt was on holiday in Austria and her ankles got so swollen she went to see a doctor and discovered she was eight months pregnant. She’d gained some weight but still had her period and so it was a complete shock. My cousin was born the next month and my aunt and uncle quickly got married and moved in together.

When I got my cycle at age thirteen my mum told me I had to carry a purse for “my stuff”. The way she said it was like it was the worst thing on earth.

My dad worked in a factory that made menstrual products and got an employee discount but was too embarrassed to bring them home in the company box, which ‘advertised’ what was inside and so made a whole production out of wrapping the box in brown paper so that neighbours wouldn’t be any the wiser as he brought it into the house from the car. It was treated like contraband.

I was an immigrant and there was a questionnaire at school. One of the questions had the word “menstrual” in it and I didn’t understand, exactly. But I didn’t ask what it meant. It was like I had an idea it shouldn’t be said out loud.

My mom left a booklet about “being a woman” on my dresser one day. In my closet, that same day, on the top shelf, was a box that had a lovely picture on it of a lovely woman in a long white gown. I was very excited about my new dress (which I assumed was inside!!).

My period started on the way home from school on the #28 Davisville bus. Me in my school uniform: white blouse, kilt, knee socks, blazer. I felt the ‘gush’ and when I stood up I was mortified. I tied the blazer around myself as I exited the bus.

I can’t remember what I said, nothing big, I’d simply mentioned my period in conversation to my boyfriend, who became (immediately) enraged. The details are a blur. All I remember is how angry he was that I said whatever I said out loud, like blasphemy or something. I have never, not once, spoken a word about my period to any guy since. Including my husband.

Boys made jokes about girls who were on their periods. (On the rag & worse.)

Try using an outhouse when you have your period.

When I got my period my mother took me aside and said I was to avoid boys now. She didn’t clarify why or which boys so I avoided them all, including my brothers, to the point that I was afraid if our elbows touched as we passed on the stairs. It completely changed our relationship.

Got my period at eleven. I was on a toboggan with two boys.

My favourite menstrual thought:  I look forward to menopause!

A menstrual memory for me is when I was in my twenties and playing softball. I was either pitching or shortstop, and I felt something. Uh oh…

My periods were heavy and I didn’t carry a purse. I worked as an auctioneer.
I used to keep extra pads down the sides of my cowboy boots.

I remember watching TV with my dad and my brothers and running from the room in embarrassment when Kotex ads came on.

My periods stopped the day my mother died. I could feel it starting as I sat with her in the hospital. She died that night, and my period proceeded normally for the rest of week. And that was it. I never had another. I was only in my forties.

We didn’t have products. We used flannel cloths, like diapers, and they had to be washed and dried and re-used. It was an embarrassment when it was your time because people would see the bulge of the pin through your skirt.

My periods were so bad I had to take three days off school most months.

I lived near the ocean and it was a real concern, people would tell you not to swim, to be careful of sharks, and they weren’t kidding.

 

GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times available from Blue Heron Books

Support indies!

 

 

welcome!

 

It’s official.

We now live in Honey Boo Boo Ville.

All we need is a quick change of signage and some new stationery.

 

Greed. Just greed. Lest we wonder how this happened.

Also, it’s a sign we need to seriously look at our values as a society… and maybe talk to each other occasionally, not merely at each other. The divide will simply become greater and greater until we learn to really see and hear The Other. Whether or not we agree is irrelevant. Respect is more important than agreement.

And less anger. More conversation, more questions, more listening, and maybe one day we can meet in the middle somewhere, or close to it.

There has to be something worthwhile that comes of this. It’s a yin yang world after all.

 
 
 

it’s not about doors

 
Dear-Menfolk-of-a-Certain-Mentality:

In the event you’re confused about how to treat the wimminfolk ‘these days’, and we suspect you are, maybe this will help…

a) ‘these days’, by the way, have been ongoing since Mary Wollstonecraft had the chutzpah to point out (publicly and in writing) the inequities between genders in 1792. She was, of course, the first feminist or, as some of you might describe her, the first pain in your ass. She certainly heard enough of that in her day. As have all women who dare to point out inequities. Because our more important role is to smile. And if you think the inequities are tiring to hear about, imagine it from our end.

b) It’s not about doors. Or seats on buses. I mention this only because it appears to be no small detail in terms of your frustration/confusion.What do these chicks want?  Are you supposed to open the door or not, you wonder….

c) So, I repeat…  it’s not about doors.

Please understand… we know you live to be helpful, to treat women with chivalry because, after all, that implies horses and knighthood, a nifty metal ensemble, a shiny sword but, honestly, unless our arms are full of groceries or rocks or children, we can handle a door. Same with anyone, really, you needn’t single us out. We’ll let you know if we need help with a jar or a high up shelf but in the meantime we’d like to think you’re using all those knightly instincts being chivalrous to people in general, opening an equal number of doors for men with arms full of children and offering seats to old fellas who look tired. In turn, we, too will gladly hold a door for you should we happen to get to it first. Basic politeness is different than a sense of duty, or favour.

That said, if you just can’t move past the idea of imposed chivalry, that men exist in order to ensure the welfare and good treatment of women, you’re in an excellent position to do something about it given your clout in most things corporate, political, tyrannical and world domination, generally.

A few items you might like to work on:

Justice for sexual assault victims

Elimination of gender discrimination in the workplace, in the arts, in government, at my car dealership

The growing trend of women and poverty (aka feminization of poverty)

Gender based violence in… well, everywhere

Domestic violence and the need for shelters, community support, housing

The buy-in on your part to raise your boys to know it’s okay to show healthy emotion so that they don’t grow up like angry little grenades

The buy-in on your part to allow your boys to do more than excel at sports

The need to change the language that demeans girls:  throw like a girl, etc.

And the language that demeans women… the male server at the restaurant who calls the woman who is neither young nor a lady, young lady, while addressing the male at the table as sir.

Equality of pay

Equality of employment opportunities

Elimination of the pink tax. Why do pink razors cost more than blue ones?

Reproductive Rights

Missing and Murdered Women

Rape and Trafficking

Increased funding and research in the area of women’s health, i.e. maternal, menstrual, menopausal (part of human biology, not chick stuff )

Oh, and stop telling women to smile, okay? You like telling people to smile, tell each other.

~

Because these are the kinds of things that would actually HELP women.

Once you’ve taken these things as seriously as you do doors, and seats on buses, and opening jars, and similarly ‘helpful’ things, well, then, if you still want to open doors for us, go right ahead.

Thanking you in advance.

 

~

p.s. No one’s really sure about the origins of why opening doors is a guy thing but one theory is that it was safer to have the woman enter first so the guy, er, sorry, the knight, didn’t end up getting shot or stabbed in the event of any nefarious doings and/or plot on the other side.

Once again, thanks.